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Abstinence-only Education is Hurting our Nation’s Youth

Teenagers have sex. To ignore this fact is not only ignorant, but dangerous to the health of our youth. Multiple studies have shown that abstinence-only sex education programs in high schools are ineffective. Not only do these programs fail at lowering the rates of pre-marital teen sex, but they cause teens to practice much riskier sex than teens who participate in sex education programs that address contraception and disease prevention. While we respect the fact that some people believe, for either religious or moral reasons, that sex before marriage is not something that they want to participate in, imposing this view on all high school students in their states or school districts is wrong. The responsible thing to do is make sure that all young people get a fair and balanced education when it comes to the pros and cons of sex. In today’s world of HIV and Hepatitis B, shielding teens from education about sex can be a fatal mistake. The U.S. has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the western world, but not the highest percentage of sexually active teens. There is no doubt that many of these pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted, and could be easily prevented with any of the myriad of birth control options available in America today. Americans need to wake up and look at the facts – so far there has been no effective way to encourage abstinence on a large scale, and the attempts to do this at the cost of educating young people about sex is causing much more harm than good. The only way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and disease is with contraception, and without the knowledge that contraception exists, we leave our young people with no protection at all. Making teens feel guilty or dirty because they have chosen to have sex also discourages them from getting medical attention if they develop symptoms of disease or become pregnant. There is nothing wrong with encouraging abstinence, it remains the only way to completely avoid pregnancy and disease. However, abstinence education has been shown time and time again not to work on its own. The Bush administration needs to stop pandering to the Christian Right and their outdated views of our country’s youth. On the Dept. of Health and Human Services Web site, nothing can be seen regarding sex education on the main menu. The Web site is difficult to navigate and the information they do give is sparse. This view of sex as something to be tucked away, out of the public eye, is where the problem lies. Making sex seem shameful and wrong will not lead to healthy sex practices among America’s youth.A truly effective and responsible program combines abstinence education with instruction on pregnancy and disease prevention, taught in a medically-sound fact based way. The federal government must end their funding of abstinence-only programs in high schools around the country, and worry less about the morals and more about the health of our nation’s youth.