The United States is a world leader when it comes to teenage pregnancy rates. Although the actual numbers of teens becoming pregnant before their 20th birthday has been cut in half over the last two decades, the overall numbers are still very high. One of the solutions that was implemented by the federal government was a program of abstinence only education. By not having sex, teens can’t get pregnant.
Is there an advantage to teaching abstinence only? Or is it prohibiting the real changes that our communities need to see?
What Are the Pros of Abstinence Only Education?
It encourages students to have healthy sexual habits.
The overall goal of abstinence only education is to teach a concept that true love is willing to wait. By encouraging an avoidance of potentially risky sexual behaviors, students can avoid issues like HPV infections, unplanned pregnancies, and other health issues.
It gives students confidence about their own sexuality.
Many students feel very awkward about their own sexuality as they grow up. Abstinence only education can help to give students the self-confidence they need to be able to make their own decisions about sex as they get older.
It provides a foundation of personal morality.
From a religious standpoint, personal morality is often defined by sexual behavior. From a secular standpoint, morality is defined by the amount of humanism that is routinely practiced. Abstinence only education reinforces personal morality on both points, potentially satisfying both sides of the aisle.
What Are the Cons of Abstinence Only Education?
It avoids the tools that teens need if they do pursue sex.
Most abstinence only education programs don’t teach anything about modern contraception. If students don’t know about contraception and don’t have access to it, then they aren’t going to use it when they have sex for the first time. Students who don’t use contraception and are sexually active for 12 months have a 90% chance of either causing a pregnancy or becoming pregnant.
The programs aren’t very accurate.
In a federal review of the abstinence only education programs that were being implemented in public schools, only 2 of them were found to be providing students with accurate information about sex and the reproductive system. If we don’t teach kids the facts, how can they make good decisions?
It follows a personal agenda.
It is extremely easy for an abstinence only education to transition from humanism to religion. When this happens, the educational experience becomes more about what the teacher wants than what the students need because faith is an individualized experience first.
Abstinence only education has shown that it can delay sexual activity, but it won’t stop it unless there is a religious disposition to avoid sex. By weighing the pros and cons of this type of education, each community, district, and parent can decide if it is the right education for their students.