The flaw in teen abstinence programs

Part 1 of a three-part series
By Oregon family Council

Early in his administration, President Obama, together with the Pelosi congress, chose to cut all federal funding for abstinence-only sex education. While this raised some outcry, many parents remained calm, knowing that their schools would still be using curricula known as “abstinence-plus” or “comprehensive sex-ed.” These programs advertise a strong emphasis on abstinence while also providing “safe sex” teaching on the use of contraceptives—especially condoms. A reasonable compromise, no?

After all, most parents want teens taught a strong abstinence message. According to a Zogby International poll, 91 percent of parents want schools to teach that “adolescents should be expected to abstain from sexual activity during high-school years,” and 79 percent prefer the line drawn at marriage or a relationship leading to marriage.

However, a study by The Heritage Foundation surveyed nine “abstinence-plus” curricula (alongside nine abstinence-only curricula) and found that the “abstinence-plus” programs fell far short of their label. The traditional, abstinence-only curricula contained nearly 54 percent content on abstinence. In contrast, the “abstinence-plus” curricula averaged only 4.75 percent page content on abstinence, but included six times as much (over 28 percent) on contraception.

What is more, the little-to-nothing on abstinence that the “abstinence-plus” programs did include was weak and sometimes derisive. None of it urged teens to refrain from sex until graduation or marriage (the desire of most parents). And none of it discussed sex as belonging in the context of a loving relationship, preferably marriage (as most parents prefer).

The Heritage Foundation report concluded: “Contrary to claims made by some advocacy groups, comprehensive sex-ed curricula do not teach abstinence as the primary and preferred goal for teens, instructing students about contraception only as a less desirable ‘fallback’ position when abstinence fails. Instead, abstinence and contraception are presented as two possible options for avoiding STDs and pregnancy, with the overwhelming emphasis placed on contraception.”

So, parents, despite what the program is called, your kids might not be getting the teaching you thought they were.

Well, you might say, the deception is disturbing. But maybe trying to teach abstinence to teens is a losing battle. Does it really make a difference? For the surprising answer, come back for Part 2 of The Abstinent Majority.

For the complete report, “Comprehensive Sex Education vs. Authentic Abstinence,” from The Heritage Foundation click here

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