Opinion: Abstinence only education is not effective


Graschelle Hipolito, Editor-in-Chief

This year, President Barack Obama removed all government funding for abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools and maintained, or even increased, funds for other programs such as the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and the Personal Responsibility Education Program.

The programs that Obama has maintained support in include those that aim to educate young adolescents on safe sex and contraceptives to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  Many of the programs also support pregnant and parenting youth, especially focused on teens who are homeless, in foster care, or live in rural or geographic areas that have high teen pregnancy rates.  

Abstinence-only sex education programs do not aim to educate students about the fundamentals of sexuality, including puberty or reproductive anatomy.  Rather, these programs aim to convince students that the exploration or curiosity of their own sexuality — which is an entirely normal teenage process — is shameful.  

Many of these abstinence-only programs are built upon the basis that shaming sexual activity will result in lower rates of teenage pregnancy or contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.  However, no studies can prove a direct correlation between teaching abstinence to teens and their likelihood of pregnancy, contracting STDs, or even engaging in sexual activity for that matter.  

Realistically, teenagers will have sex or engage in any other sexual activities regardless of what type of sexual education is presented to them, so I support educating teens as thoroughly, truthfully, and openly as possible so that they, at least, are more aware of their bodies and all the sexual aspects that coincide.  No sex-ed programs can completely prevent teens from exploring their sexuality because it is, in fact, a biological need that many are prompted to fulfill.  

The concerns of advocates of abstinence-only sex education programs with teenage pregnancy and exposure to STDs are valid, but I believe that no amount of abstinence-only propaganda will completely diminish innate sexual desires.  

With proper, honest, and appropriate — and more substantial than the “curriculum” of abstinence-only programs — sexual education, hopefully the American public school system and similarly-motivated government programs can promote teenage sexual health, rather than teenage sexual abstinence.