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Comprehensive Abstinence: A Complete Sexual Education

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Many people believe the phrase, "Kids are going to have sex anyway" is an assumption, however, data from the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) indicates that half of all high school students have engaged in sexual intercourse. These numbers rising thirty-nine percent per grade level (Terry). This rising rate of sexual promiscuity is in direct correlation to the number of unplanned teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted disease infections, and the contraction of the HIV/AIDS virus in adolescents in the United States. The reality of the situation is that the majority of young teens in the United States will engage in sexual behavior prior to high school graduation. This is why our public school systems in the United States should teach students comprehensive abstinence, as opposed to simply abstinence.

The detrimental outcomes of young teen's participation in sexual activities have spurred public schools and the federal government to formulate school-based sexual education programs. In a study performed by Steven P. Ridini of two separate Texas towns, one woman commented that "Schools should not teach our children anything unless they can teach them total abstinence. Anything other than that would not be healthy for our children" (Ridini, p.114). Unfortunately, George W. Bush agrees with this woman from Ridini's study, and has offered grants in excess of $85 million dollars in order to teach abstinence in the public school system. Although the federal government is currently funding Abstinence-Only programs for school-based sexual education, a more comprehensive message should be instated. Comprehensive abstinence programs would better prepare and educate adolescent students of not only the risks involved with sexual activity, but also to the STD and pregnancy prevention methods such as contraceptive use, while supporting abstinence as the most effective and healthiest choice. In other words, abstinence-only programs fail to inform students of preventative methods other than abstinence, and therefore neglect the already sexually active students. These programs thus deny students access to information that is beneficial to them and could potentially reduce rates of negative outcomes from sexual experiences, including sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

Abstinence along with information on "safer-sex" practices provides a thorough and appropriate curriculum for school-based sex education programs. According to the national survey by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), most Americans support a more comprehensive approach to sex education. The survey claims that, "81 percent of surveyed parents say schools should teach both abstinence and give teens enough information to help them prevent unplanned pregnancies and the spread of STDs if they do decide to have sex," 18 percent supported teaching only abstinence until marriage (Kaiser). The comprehensive approach is that while it is important to educate children to remain abstinent until the time comes that they are emotionally and physically ready to engage in sexual acts, they should also be informed of both birth control and disease prevention, since these are essential to those students whom are currently sexually active. A more comprehensive abstinence sex Ed program may send a message of abstinence, but would also provide information of how students can act responsibly if they choose not to abstain from sex. Providing young teens with all of the available information on preventative methods ensures a complete educational approach that will make teens able to make at least an educated decision to have or to not have sex.

Little evidence that abstinence-only programs are successful has been gathered since they were taken on by the federal government. According to Joanne Mariner, "a study commissioned by Congress issued this year found no proof that these programs worked to reduce the incidence of teen sex, pregnancy, or STD contraction" (Mariner, p.3). In actuality, there have been very few evaluations of abstinence-only programs, according to Douglas Kirby, who is part of the group on effective programs at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (Kirby). He also notes that these programs fail to bring about the effects of delay or reduction of sexual intercourse or the use of contraception, which are widely desirable to the public. One study addressed in Kirby's findings that followed students who took virginity pledges found that the vows taken did delay sexual activity, however, those who lapsed were less likely to use contraceptives because they were not properly informed by their abstinence-only curriculum (Kirby, p.3).

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