The Engage Family Blog

Official Blog of The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

Abstinence Education Gets a Passing Grade

with one comment

Sen. Orrin Hatch’s abstinence bill gets bi-partisan support and passes the Senate Finance Committee. 

By Nathan A. Cherry

 Martinsburg, W.V. – A victory for abstinence education came Tuesday as the Senate Finance Committee voted 12-11 in favor of a bill by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to give $50 million in federal funds back to abstinence-only education. This money was cut from President Obama’s 2010 budget and earmarked for other various programs aimed at reducing teen pregnancy.

 The surprising and encouraging point to this story is that the vote crossed party lines as two Democrats, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas both voted with all 10 committee Republicans to support the measure. With sex-education being a hot topic that liberals and conservatives cannot seem to agree upon it is nice to see bi-partisan cooperation in the support of Sen. Hatch’s bill.

Sen. Hatch has been convinced that abstinence education works by the results he has seen in the past. He was quoted as saying;

“My amendment restores a vital funding stream, so that teens and parents have the option to participate in programs that have demonstrated success in reducing teen sexual activity and, consequently, teen pregnancies.”

What I don’t understand is why anyone would not be in favor of abstinence education? With skyrocketing teen pregnancy rates, out of control single-mother rates, and ridiculous risks of STD’s, it makes no sense at all for anyone to oppose abstinence education. Consider these statistics from the Guttmacher Institute:

-Teen pregnancy rates are much higher in the United States than in many other developed countries-twice as high as in England and Wales or Canada, and eight times as high as in the  Netherlands or Japan.
-Seven percent of teen mothers receive late or no prenatal care. Babies born to teens are more likely to be low-birth-weight than are those born to women in their 20s and 30s.
-Each year, almost 750,000 women aged 15-19 become pregnant.
-Of the 18.9 million new cases of STIs each year, 9.1 million (48%) occur among 15-24-year-olds.

There is nothing positive about the statistics above. So why lawmakers would be opposed to abstinence education is confusing? Could it be that they see it as some sort of religious teaching since most churches and religious systems advocate abstinence? I don’t think so. Independent links between personal faith and long-term physical, mental, and emotional health have been established by respectable organizations. It is weak at best to shun abstinence because of religion.

I have another possible answer. Perhaps it has something to do with Planned Parenthood. It is no secret that PP is the largest contraceptive and abortion merchants in the country. It is also no secret that PP helps to fund the political careers of many pro abortion, pro contraceptive lawmakers. So is it possible that lawmakers aren’t really concerned with the overall health and well-being of our children at all. That they are not interested in studies linking abstinence to positive self-image, higher grades, and greater success. Could it be that they are just padding their wallets and ensuring funding for that next election cycle? Sadly, it could all be true.

Let’s just be real for a second. No matter how you look at it, abstinence is absolutely the only guaranteed method of pregnancy and STD prevention. If you don’t have sex, you can’t get pregnant and you can’t get any disease (Barring any miraculous or divinely engineered circumstances). So if the goal is the safety and overall health and well-being of our children, abstinence is the only education that gets a passing grade.

Further Food For Thought:
Abortion and Sex-Ed Programs are Worst Option
Abstinence: A Guaranteed Way to Avoid Pregnancy and STD’s

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One Response

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  1. Dear Nathan Cherry,
    I have recently read your blogs focused on the controversy of how to teach sex education in schools, and I find that I disagree with your opinion on the matter. It is your view that the only effective method of sex education that should be taught is abstinence only, while I believe that the most effective program is comprehensive sex education, or abstinence-plus.
    Although you seem to make many seemingly valid points about why abstinence sex education is the only effective method, but that is only on the surface.
    You supply the statistic that teen pregnancy rates are two to eight times as high as in other developed countries such as England and Japan. While these statistics are true, there are many different reasons that can be attributed to these alarming numbers. There are very contrasting cultures between the countries compared, which is the reason it cannot be used as a valid argument to support your claim. Many researchers find that there is a correlation between the sexual mainstream media in the United States and the high teenage sexual activity and pregnancy rates. It is my opinion that this research makes an extremely valid argument. The high pregnancy rates in the United States cannot be used as an argument that we need specific abstinence sex education; it simply shows that there is a problem that we need to take steps to correct. When you look at years past, the high teenage pregnancy rates in our country are mostly attributed to a time when the sex education taught in public schools was taught either in middle school or as abstinence only programs. This alone should be enough to show that the abstinence education programs were not effective when they were the only programs allowed in public schools. Statistics provided by the Guttmacher Institute, also quoted in your article, say that between 1995 and 2002, the number of teens who had participated in sexual intercourse had declined by 10%. These 7 years are when the controversy rose to include comprehensive sex education programs in the United States public schools.
    The goal you seem to aim for is to protect teenagers, especially teenage girls, from unwanted pregnancies. Seven percent of teen mothers receive late or no prenatal care; and babies born to teens are more likely to be low-birth-weight than babies born to women in their 20s or 30s. When a lot of teenage girls have an unintended pregnancy, it is not immediately recognized because in the past, they have not had the proper education to know what is happening to their bodies. It is this lack of information given to them by the previously popular abstinence only sex education that can be attributed to the lack of experienced care for these teenage mothers. If you are truly trying to protect these teenage mothers and their babies, then the most effective way to do so is to educate them as much as possible. In 2002, one third of teens reported that they had never been formally educated about contraception in the classroom. The majority of that one third of teens reported being in abstinence only sex education programs in school. If these teens had been educated about contraception, birth control methods, sexually transmitted infections, and unwanted pregnancies, they would have been able to make smarter and informed decisions about their sexual activities that could have prevented them from being in an unwanted situation.
    Without a shred of doubt, there is an extremely high number of teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 that become pregnant each year in the United States. You provide us with the number of 750,000 as the number of teenage girls in this age group that become pregnant each year. According to the Guttmacher Institute, of those 750,000 girls that become pregnant each year, 82% of those are unintended pregnancies, and over one quarter of those pregnancies end in an abortion each year. In your article, you attack the principles of Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping educate teenagers about pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, by implying that the only reason for this organizations continued presence today is because they help to pad the wallets of politicians for their continued support. As a teenager that has personally benefited from the services of Planned Parenthood as an affordable clinic for its many services, it is shocking that you could attribute their success to paying off politicians. Planned Parenthood strives to offer services to the population that cannot afford to use their regular physician for things such as testing for sexually transmitted infections, filling birth control prescriptions, or performing abortion procedures.
    It is painstakingly clear in other articles posted in your blog of your view on abortion as simply a danger to anyone who chooses to have the procedure. What you fail to consider is the reason why it has become such a danger to the people who choose to go through with it. The largest percentages of abortion patients are teenage girls who have become pregnant unintentionally. With the lack of education about alternative options if a teenage girl should become pregnant against her planning that you are suggesting as the most effective option, the first and only option considered by these girls is to have an abortion. The comprehensive sex education programs, that I believe are most effective, aim to educate teenagers about not only contraception to prevent such situations, but also about their options in case they are involved in an unwanted situation. If they have not been properly educated about other options available to them, then they are much more prone to make rash decisions about a hasty abortion or alternative methods of abortion outside a proper clinic, greatly lowering their safety.
    The same argument holds true when discussing the high percentage (48%) of teens that attribute to the number of new cases of sexually transmitted infections each year. Many teens that participate in sexual activities are extremely under-educated on the ways in which sexually transmitted infections are spread. When asked, many teens did not know that sexually transmitted infections can be passed between partners during oral sex. This is a problem that can simply be solved by ensuring that teens be properly educated.
    Your opinion is that abstinence is the absolute and only possible way to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. This is absolutely true, unless we were to find out that some urban legends, such as getting gonorrhea from a toilet seat, are true. Your view although is that since abstinence is the only way to prevent such occurrences, abstinence only education is the only viable option to have such results. You toss aside the idea of comprehensive education as if its goal is to tell that it is okay to go out and have sexual intercourse as long as they are safe about it. The goal of comprehensive sex education is not to have teenagers think sex is okay, it is to provide them with the education necessary to make an informed decision. There are growing percentages of teenagers that are sexually active, but there is not a growing number of teenagers that have been properly educated about sexually transmitted infections, contraception, pregnancy, abortion, adoption, and dealing with their choices. The curriculum of the comprehensive sex education program includes lessons that have been reviewed, and are seen as effective methods of educating teenagers of all of this.
    You close this article stating that if our goal is the health and well being of our children, then abstinence only education is our only option. Our absolute and only option? I think not. If this were true there would be no controversy over how to teach it in schools, meaning that obviously there are problems with abstinence only. By teaching abstinence only education in schools, we are taking away the ability for these teenagers to make educated and informed decisions about their own life. Comprehensive sex education, also called abstinence-plus, not only teaches teenagers that remaining abstinent is the safest option, but also that if they feel they must be sexually active, how they can go about this in the safest manner possible. In my opinion that is the only way we show that our goal is the health and well being of our children by showing them the respect they deserve to make their own decisions.
    In the beginning of your article, you stated that it was a victory that $50 million had been approved to be directed back at abstinence only programs, and that this money would be coming out of the budget proposed by President Obama for abstinence-plus programs. You see this as a victory because it is helping the program that you feel is best fitted to be taught in schools, but you do not hold the majority opinion. In a study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, it was shown that 80% of parents feel that comprehensive education should be taught in schools, and an even greater 82% were found to share these feelings by the Guttmacher Institute. More than nine in ten teachers feel that students comprehensive education is the best, but one in four of those teachers are prohibited from teaching it. When there is absolutely no strong evidence or proof that abstinence only sex education programs can be attributed to any decline in teen pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections, what is the benefit of it?
    Moreover, when you have people that are very much in the public eye that are having unintended pregnancies, it is even harder to teach kids that abstinence is the best option, or even the coolest option; because let’s face it, teenagers base the majority of their decisions on how they will be perceived for them. Very famous actress Jamie Lynn Spears, younger sister of Britney Spears, gave birth to her daughter in 2008 when the actress was merely seventeen years old. She was a television star on the Nickelodeon show Zoey 101, and with no doubt had a very large number of adolescent female fans who would become aware of her pregnancy and quite possibly decide to take after her. Along with her teenage pregnancy, Bristol Palin, the daughter of Alaska governor and former Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, gave birth to her son in late 2008. Both of these public teenage figures are unwed mothers. The most surprising fact to me is that Bristol Palin advocates herself for abstinence only sex education. She was taught abstinence education in her school system, and now tries to correct her mistake in the eye of the public by saying that abstinence would have saved her.
    All in all, some points you make here in your article are valid, but only when taken out of their original context. By teaching abstinence only education, you are taking away the rights of teenagers to make informed decisions about adult choices they are faced with everyday that can impact the rest of their life. If you do not give them the education to make the right decisions, they may have consequences that will make them adults before they were meant to.
    Sincerely,
    Heather N.

    Heather N.

    December 13, 2009 at 11:26 pm


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