Abstinence Education: Weighing Pros and Cons (page 2)

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Updated on Jan 18, 2012

Abstinence education isn't without perceived flaws. Here are some of the cons:

  • Excludes information. Critics of abstinence-only curriculum feel that the program fails to provide enough facts for young people to make an educated decision about losing their virginity. Comprehensive sex ed teaches teens how to protect themselves against disease and unintended pregnancies, by using contraceptives, such as condoms and birth control pills.
  • Misconstrued contraception rates. Comprehensive sex ed proponents believe abstinence education focuses only on the failure rates of contraception, even though most "accidents" happen to people who don't always or consistently use their birth control method correctly. These numbers don't paint an accurate picture of birth control—that condoms, the pill and other contraceptives are very successful at preventing STIs and providing protection when used correctly.
  • Religion. There's no way around it—beliefs about sex are shaped by religion, and abstinence is a key component to Christianity. Since many supporters of abstinence education are Christian, critics believe teaching chastity in the classroom for moral reasons is a violation of the separation of church and state. It's possible that some religious educators may not teach students about certain topics because it doesn't coincide with their beliefs.
  • Unrealistic approach. One of the biggest complaints about abstinence education is that it's unrealistic. According to the National Survey of Family Growth in 2006-2008, 13% of teens had slept with someone by age 15, and most initiate intercourse in their later teen years. By their 19th birthday, 7 in 10 young adults have had sex. Today, many people marry later in life, skip the walk to the altar, or can't marry their partners due to same-sex marriage laws. These statistics make saving oneself until marriage very difficult, if not unrealistic. So is abstinence education a lost cause?

The moral and religious disputes over sex education will likely continue, but no matter your beliefs, all parents and educators agree they want what's best for their children when it comes to sexual health. Over the last decade, teens have been waiting longer to have sex than in previous years, and the use of condoms has increased. Hopefully, with more well-prepared programs focused on giving teens the skills they need to make healthful decisions, we'll continue to see those numbers show positive change. Now that's something everyone can agree on.

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