Abstinence-plus works

A recent study has shown what many have suspected for years: Abstinence-only sexual education programs are not the most effective programs to prevent teen pregnancy. Contrary to the beliefs of social conservatives, telling teens only about the merits of abstinence does not actually promote abstinence. Instead, a mix of information about abstinence and contraceptives as well as social programs and activities is shown to be the best way to prevent teen pregnancy. The results of this new study should be closely scrutinized, and programs across the country should work to integrate the methods the study found useful with their own programs.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy conducted a review of all teen pregnancy programs and concluded that only a few of the many programs actually succeeded in helping to prevent teen pregnancy. The abstinence-only programs, favored by the federal government and the Minnesota Legislature, show no signs of actually promoting abstinence; programs that succeeded featured direct talk about abstinence and sex, mostly in conjunction with community service projects or other activities.

It is simplistic to think that by not giving teens information about sex and only talking about abstinence, they would necessarily choose abstinence. Some teens might not be convinced by the arguments for abstinence and are not afraid to have sex. Experimentation with sex will occur, even if it’s a topic not discussed in classrooms. Sex, in the world of teenagers, is everywhere: on television shows, in many mainstream magazines, overheard as gossip in school halls, staring them in the face on dates and raging through teen bodies as hormones. By giving students as much knowledge about sex as possible, it allows them to make the best choices possible. As this study has shown, it appears that even with safe sex knowledge, teens are choosing to abstain.

Abstinence-plus programs, as they are sometimes called, are the right choice for today’s teens. Those who choose to abstain will know they are not alone and can have confidence their decision is right for them and the best way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. For those who do choose sex, they’ll be clear on the possible consequences and can work to protect themselves. Students will be fully knowledgeable about where to obtain birth control and condoms if they are not comfortable talking to their parents or family physicians.

These programs make it easier for teens to choose what is right for them, by providing a format for discussion so they can learn about their options and choose their own path. Realizing kids will explore and experiment, the government’s duty should be assisting the teens in making the safest choices possible. Because of their effectiveness, the government should work to fund more abstinence-plus programs, instead of relying on abstinence-only programs. The government must work through prudish notions of sex education better left in the last century, and focus on programs that will actually prevent teen pregnancy.