Sex Education in the United States
In the United States, sex education is fundamentally a state and local government issue, despite occasional attempts by the national government to promote certain policies through grants. Sex education came about in the 1970s to help curb the number of teen pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.i Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education. This has become a controversial and highly politicized issue, with the many on the religious right advocating abstinence-only education while many others argue for more thorough education that includes information about contraceptives, birth control and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), among other issues. Currently, 26 states mandate that abstinence be stressed while 17 states and the District of Columbia mandate that information on contraception is provided.ii
Utah’s teen pregnancy rate has recently fallen (to 34.2 teen pregnancies per 1000 females ages 15-19) and is now below the national average of 27.9.iii The number of abortions has also fallen. Furthermore, with the exception of syphilis, Utah has low rates of STDs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia.iv While Utah has funded abstinence-only education from federal grants, the availability and use of contraceptives has also increased in Utah, so it is unclear what has led to the decrease and if their abstinence education has been effective. Abstinence-Only Education
The abstinence-only approach to sex education is the theory that teaching teenagers to refrain from sex until after marriage will keep them from having sex, hopefully lowering the rate of teen pregnancies and the transmission of STDs. v In many states, this also includes the prohibition against teaching about contraceptives, and how to use them. vi Especially under Republican administrations vii, the national government has tried to encourage abstinence education through Title V, a conditional grant...
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