An End to Ignorance

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In the past, Congress has funded abstinence-only programs over abstinence-plus education. The $102 million (0) currently being spent on abstinence-only programs seems to be intended to serve social and political goals, instead of producing positive health results for youth. The government appears to be concerned with how others portray our citizens, as immoral beings, when sex is an inevitable occurrence. Abstinence-plus education emphasizes the benefits of abstinence while also teaching about contraception and disease-prevention methods. Abstinence-only programs education includes discussions of values, character building, and refusal skills. They promote abstinence from sex for unmarried people and do not teach about contraception. They do not reduce pre-marital sex, but they do cause young people to avoid contraception. Because of the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only programs, abstinence-plus education should be taught instead.

The United States has the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy of any developed country. Each year, unprotected sex results in almost four million teenagers contracting an STD. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is also a serious health concern for young people. Of the 40,000 new HIV infections in the US every year, about 20,000 occur in people under the age of 25, unprotected sex being to blame. (1) The National Abortion Rights Advocacy League says, “By denying teens the full range of information regarding human sexuality, abstinence-only education fails to provide young people with the information they need to protect their health and well-being.” (2) Surveys done by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that “students who have sex education know more and feel better prepared to handle different situations and decisions than those who have not.” (3) If the abstinence-only approach continues, it is expected have serious consequences by denying young people access to the information they need to protect themselves. These programs also distance young people of negative health outcomes by endorsing a vision of adolescents that they are all the same by promoting one set of behaviors and value.

An assessment of the published research reveals no evidence that abstinence-only programs delay sexual initiation or reduce STDs or pregnancy. For example, a study of an abstinence-only program reviewed in Emerging Answers studied the end product of the Postponing Sexual Involvement curriculum, a program that was put into action in California. The study found that students enrolled in PSI who received instruction from peers were more likely to report becoming pregnant, even though the PSI program was unlikely the cause. This program had no positive impact on the initiation of sex, the occurrence of sex, or the number of sexual partners. (4) In another study by the Centers for Disease Control, researchers found that although teenagers who take "virginity pledges" may wait longer to initiate sexual activity, they are more likely to take part in oral and anal sex, and they are just as likely as other students to be infected with STDs. Eventually, 88% have premarital sex. (5) Therefore, when abstinence-only programs have young people promise not to have premarital sex, they are being insincere because they have anal and oral sex instead, which does not protect them from diseases. Many are not even aware of this, something they would know if abstinence-only education taught about contraceptives. A vast majority end up having sexual intercourse, proving this approach is not effective.

The Medical Institute for Sexual Health booklet claims that “when parent views differ from those of their children, ‘safer sex’ proponents generally support student interests over parental wishes." The author is implying that advocates for abstinence-plus programming ignore what parents want for their children. However, they are mistaken because surveys show that the public, parents included, want schools to convey...
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