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Abstinence-only sex education

Laura Bush with an AIDS orphan at a center in Zambia that promotes abstinence and faith for youth.

Abstinence-only sex education is a form of sex education that emphasizes abstinence from sex, and often excludes many other types of sexual and reproductive health education, particularly regarding birth control and safe sex. This type of sex education promotes sexual abstinence until marriage and avoids discussion of use of contraceptives. Comprehensive sex education, by contrast, covers the use of contraceptives as well as abstinence. Proponents of abstinence-only education argue that comprehensive education encourages premarital sexual activity, while critics argue that abstinence-only education constitutes religious interference in education, distorts information about contraceptive methods, and does not provide adequate information to protect the health of young people.


[edit] Discussion

Proponents of abstinence-only sex education argue that this approach is superior to comprehensive sex education because it emphasizes the teaching of morality that limits sex to that within the bounds of marriage, and that sex before marriage and at a young age has heavy physical and emotional costs.[1] They suggest that comprehensive sex education encourages premarital sexual activity among teenagers, which should be discouraged in an era when HIV and other incurable sexually transmitted infections are widespread and when teen pregnancy is an ongoing concern.

Opponents and critics, which include prominent professional associations in the fields of medicine, public health, adolescent health, and psychology, argue that such programs fail to provide adequate information to protect the health of adolescents. Some critics also argue that such programs verge on religious interference in secular education. Opponents of abstinence-only education dispute the claim that comprehensive sex education encourages teens to have premarital sex.[2] The idea that sexual intercourse should only occur within marriage also has serious implications for people for whom marriage is not valued or desired, or is unavailable as an option, particularly LGBTs living in places where same-sex marriage is not legal or socially acceptable.[3][4][5][6][7] According to Advocates for Youth abstinence-only sex education distorts information about contraceptives, including only revealing failure rates associated with their use, and ignoring discussion of their benefits.[8]

[edit] Scientific position

Biologically, abstaining from sexual relations is the only way to avoid the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases that could otherwise be transmitted during sexual activity. Also, in regards to avoiding unintended pregnancy, abstinence from vaginal intercourse is the only method of contraceptive able to fully ensure against pregnancy.

A federally-funded University of Pennsylvania study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that only one third of sixth- and seventh-graders who completed abstinence-focused programs had sex within the next two years, compared to nearly half of the students who attended other classes, including ones that taught combined abstinence and contraception.[9] The study has been called "game-changing" by supporters of abstinence-only sex education. Critics pointed out that the abstinence program used in the study was not representative of most abstinence programs; it did not take a moralistic tone, encouraged children to delay sex until ready instead of until married, did not portray extramarital sex as inappropriate, and did not disparage contraceptives.[10]

According to SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, an organisation that promotes sex education in the United States[11], a "...study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are ineffective."[12]

A 2010 report by the Guttmacher Institute pointed out that pregnancy rates for teens 15-19 reversed their decline in 2006, near the peak of the Abstinence Only campaign in the United States.[13] Sarah Kliff of Newsweek pointed out that there was no corresponding "indication of an uptick" in teen pregnancy rates when abstinence-only sex education funding was increased during the Clinton years, but in fact a small decline.[14] James Wagoner, president of the nonprofit group Advocates for Youth, blames the poor quality of Bush era abstinence-only programs as compared to abstinence-only programs under Clinton's administration for the difference in outcomes.[15]

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ PBS, February 4, 2005 Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, Episode 823 Retrieved on 2007-14-03
  2. ^ Douglas Kirby, Ph. D.: Emerging Answers: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy. National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2001. Homepage of the study.
  3. ^ K Van Wormer, R McKinney: What Schools Can Do to Help Gay/lesbian/bisexual Youth: A Harm Reduction Approach. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&se=gglsc&d=5002082003
  4. ^ Journal of Adolescent Health: Volume 38, Issue 1, Pages 83-87 (January 2006): Abstinence-only education policies and programs: A position paper of the Society for Adolescent Medicine: John Santelli, M.D., M.P.H.a, Mary A. Ott, M.D.b, Maureen Lyon, Ph.D.c, Jennifer Rogers, M.P.H.d, Daniel Summers, M.D.e http://www.jahonline.org/article/PIIS1054139X05002764/fulltext - "abstinence-until-marriage programs discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, as federal law limits the definition of marriage to heterosexual couples."
  5. ^ United States Ignorance Only Hiv/aids, Human Rights and Federally Funded Abstinence-only Programs in the United States Texas: a Case Study; Human Rights Watch, September 2002, Vol. 14, No. 5(G)., Page 39.
  6. ^ Nancy D. Polikoff, Beyond straight and gay marriage: valuing all families under the law; Politics, Culture and Society Series, Beacon Press, 2008 ISBN 0807044326, 9780807044322
  7. ^ Debran Rowland, The boundaries of her body: the troubling history of women's rights in America, SphinxLegal, 2004, ISBN 1572483687, 9781572483682
  8. ^ Effective Sex Education, Brigid McKeon, 2006; http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=450&Itemid=336
  9. ^ Jemmott Jb, 3rd; Jemmott, LS; Fong, GT (2010). "Efficacy of a Theory-Based Abstinence-Only Intervention Over 24 Months". Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine 164 (2): 152–9. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.267. PMID 20124144. http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/164/2/152?home. 
  10. ^ Stein, Rob (February 2, 2010). "Abstinence-only programs might work, study says". http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/01/AR2010020102628.html. 
  11. ^ http://www.thebody.com/content/art2406.html
  12. ^ SIECUS Fact Sheet (includes research citations).
  13. ^ Table 1.0,“U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity." http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2010/01/26/index.html, downloaded 20100127.
  14. ^ "Why Bush’s Abstinence-Only Policies Are (Probably) Not to Blame for the Teen-Pregnancy Increase". Newsweek. January 27, 2010. http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thegaggle/archive/2010/01/27/why-bush-s-abstinence-only-policies-are-probably-not-to-blame-for-teen-pregnancy-increase.aspx. 
  15. ^ http://www.aolnews.com/health/article/study-teaching-abstinence-works-better-than-sex-ed/19341448

[edit] References

  • Williams, Mary E. (Ed.). (2006). Sex: opposing viewpoints. Detroit: Greenhaven.

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