Abstinence-only education ineffective

editorial cartoon by Jacob Bogdanoff and Des Delgadillo
editorial cartoon by Jacob Bogdanoff and Des Delgadillo

A chlamydia outbreak at a Texas high school has raised concerns about whether abstinence-only sex education programs are actually effective in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers.

The Crane Independent School District sent a letter to parents in early May notifying them that students at Crane High School in Crane, Texas, tested positive for chlamydia.

The exact number of those infected is currently being disputed, with some media sources claiming 20 and others reporting more, but when a school that receives funding for its abstinence-only education suddenly experiences a spread of an STD, one cannot help but to question the efficiency of the program.

Teaching teens that abstinence is the only way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases does not actually decrease their chances of becoming pregnant or contracting STDs, it can actually be counterproductive to prevention.

A comprehensive sex education program that teaches all teens about abstinence, safe sex and birth control is a better method to teach sex education, as it provides teens with more accurate information and options.

Researchers for the National Survey of Family Growth conducted a study for which they asked teens between ages 15 and 19 whether they were taught how to say no to sex and if they received formal education about birth control. They then asked the teens if they were ever pregnant, involved in a pregnancy, or diagnosed with an STD.

Their findings showed that those who received comprehensive sex education (answered yes to the first two questions) were less likely to report a pregnancy than those who did not learn about birth control.

Those involved in abstinence-only programs did not have a lower risk of STDs, the survey found.

Abstinence as a best practice should not be looked down upon, but when teens are being taught that it is the only way to prevent pregnancy and STDs, they are being misinformed and limited to just one method of avoiding such outcomes.

Teens should have the freedom to be able to consider the options.

Contraceptives and safe sex practices have greatly improved and, although not perfect, have helped in decreasing pregnancy, abortion and teen birth rates, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Some states have made efforts to stop abstinence-only programs. Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald Black ruled against an abstinence-only program in early May for violating the California Comprehensive Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Act, which requires schools to provide adequate instruction on sex education.

This is a step, though there are still far too many schools that continue to teach abstinence only, even in states like California where comprehensive sex ed is the law.

Teens need to know all their options when it comes to pregnancy and STD prevention.

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