Opinion Piece On Efficacy Of Abstinence Only Sex Education

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Abstinence Only Sex Education

The conclusion that "there is no evidence that abstinence-onlyprograms reduce the rate of teen sexual activity," recently reached byresearchers of an eight-year Mathematica Policy Research report, is not a "particularly surprising conclusion," a USA Today editorialsays. Abstinence education advocates have "attempt[ed] to take credit"for the decrease in teen pregnancy rates and other measures of teensexual activity over the past decade, according to the editorial.

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However, health researchers say that the decreased rates are because ofan increased "fear" among teens of contracting sexually transmittedinfections, the editorial says. A 2005 survey finding that nearly halfof all high school students had sexual intercourse shows that "bankingentirely on abstinence won't work," the editorial says, adding, "Whatdoes appear to work is a mix of abstinence training and comprehensivesex education." Teaching abstinence has "always had a certain appeal,"but it is "not a time for wishful thinking" because recent studies havesuggested that the "decline in the rate of teens having sex hasplateaued" (USA Today, 7/30).

Opposing Opinion Piece

Abstinence-based programs offer a "holistic approach" to sex education,while research shows that comprehensive programs "do little more thanpromote contraceptive use," Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, writes in a USA Today opinionpiece. According to Huber, a principal researcher on the Mathematicareport has said the "results shouldn't be used to draw sweepingconclusions." In addition, other research has found abstinence programsare "successful in delaying sexual onset and in helping sexually activeteens choose to abstain," Huber writes. Abstinence programs "shar[e]the realities" of STIs and provide accurate information aboutcontraception "but always within the context of abstinence as thehealthiest choice," Huber writes, concluding, "The health and future ofour teens depend on a common-sense approach that works" (Huber, USA Today, 7/30).

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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Women's Health Policy Report, search thearchives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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