Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Abstinence Education Wrongly Blamed for Teen Pregnancy Rate Increase

By Toneia Mayes

In response to an article in The New York Times entitled, “After Long Decline, Teenage Pregnancy Rate Rises,” it is apparent that there are a few matters on this issue of abstinence education that need to be brought to light. The article implies that there may be a correlation between funding abstinence education and a 3% increase in teen pregnancy rates from 2005 to 2006.

This article states:

“While it is difficult to pinpoint precisely how different factors influence teenage sexual behavior, some experts speculate that the rise in teenage pregnancy might be partly attributable to the $150 million a year of federal financing for sex education that emphasized abstinence until marriage, avoiding all mention of the possible benefits of contraception.”
This statement is false. While it is true that most Abstinence Education (ABED) programs do not actively promote or encourage condom use, they do discuss condoms and give accurate statistics. Most programs discuss condoms while highlighting their limitations, but they do site that condoms are 85% successful at preventing pregnancy when used consistently and correctly 100% of the time. ABED students will never hear an educator try to convince them not to use a condom; however, they will explain that the only 100% effective way to avoid not only pregnancy but also STD's and emotional consequences is sexual abstinence.

To contrast the two approaches to sex education, Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSED) focuses on risk reduction via condom use or limiting the number of sexual partners. ABED focuses on the value of abstinence while extensively citing the risk of sexual activity at a young age with or without a condom.

And the debate over these two approaches just got much more interesting.

In a study released Monday, February 01, 2010 by the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, abstinence education has been validated as effective. The study states: “…a high risk population of 6 and 7th graders receiving abstinence centered education reduced sexual initiation, reduced the number of sexual partners (a crucial determinant in acquiring an STD) and further showed that abstinence instruction did not deter the use of condoms (a common charge brought by anti-abstinence critics).” Read more about this ground-breaking study at the National Abstinence Education Association website.

To take away the abstinence message from our youth because "some experts speculate that the rise in teenage pregnancy might be partly attributable to (that message) ..." is saying that our teens do not have a right to make an informed decision because of a speculation.

To imply that teens do not need to hear the benefits of remaining abstinent until marriage is to imply that condom use is somehow our teens best or only option and that is just not true.

With sexually experienced teens themselves saying that they wish they would have waited (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2003), it seems that one of the best things we can do to meet their need is to teach them skills in decision making and help them deal with peer pressure to engage in sex.

Toneia Mayes is a Care Net Regional Consultant and a consultant for Community Based Abstinence Education grants. She can be reached at toneia@cox.net. For more information on the effectiveness of abstinence education, visit the Institute of Research and Evaluation website.


Kristin Hansen said...

Thanks, Toneia for keeping us updated on these developments and being our go-to person on this issue! Keep up the good work!

Bill said...

Great article. Well written and timely. I trust that this will be forwarded to thousands that only get their news from the mainstream media. It should open eyes to the truth.

Bill in Anchorage

We are Grateful!!! said...

Good write-up Toneia.
I hope Washington, parents and the youth wake up.