Study: Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Up

ByABC News
September 25, 2000, 5:14 PM

N E W   Y O R K, Sept. 26 -- An increasing percentage of public school sexual education instructors are teaching students to just say no to sex as the only way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, a new study says.

Abstinence-only sex education now comprises 23 percent of sex education in the public schools the United States, up from 2 percent of the total in 1988, according to a survey of 4,000 seventh- to 12th-grade teachers by the Alan Guttmacher Institute survey, a non-profit health research organization in New York City and Washington D.C.

The study also found sex education today is much less likely to cover birth control, abortion, obtaining contraceptive and sexually transmitted diseases services, and sexual orientation, than it did in the late 1980s.

Abstinence messages are very important, but clearly the coverage of contraceptive topics is also crucial in helping our youth prevent unplanned pregnancy and STDs, says Sara Seims, president of the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

Our findings are particularly disheartening considering that abstinence accounted for about one-quarter of the recent drop in the U.S. teenage pregnancy rate, while improved contraceptive use was responsible for the rest.

Teachers apparently feel abstinence-only courses are not getting the message across, the study reveals. The vast majority of the teachers surveyed think students need to learn more, and at a younger age, about sexually transmitted diseases, correct condom use and how to resist peer pressure, as well as abstinence.

Federal Funding for Abstinence-Only

The debate over abstinence-only versus comprehensive sexual education programs has heated up in the last few years after the federal government began funding abstinence-only programs as part of the 1996 welfare reform bill. Since 1998, the government has appropriated $50 million per year to states to support programs which teach that physical and emotional harm are likely to result from premarital sex.