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Abstinence Vs Comprehensive Sex Education

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Sexuality has long been a sensitive topic, providing the alarming facts that:

• Slightly more than half of females and nearly two-thirds of males have had experienced sexual intercourse by their 18th birthday, suggested in a research by Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, US Department of Health and Human Services. (Moore et al., Review section 1: Sexual Intercourse)

• With 750,000 teenage pregnancies a year, America has the highest teen birth rates in the developed world, as updated in June 2008 by Planned Parenthood Federation of America. (“Teen Pregnancy” par.1-2)

• More than three-quarters of teenage pregnancies are unintended. About 30 percent of adolescent pregnancies result in abortion, 14 percent end in miscarriage, and the remaining 56 percent result in live births. (“Teen Pregnancy articles” par.1)

When the spotlight shifts to sex education, a heated debate is stirred over whether contraception should be covered in abstinence programs. Currently 18 states and the District of Columbia require schools to provide sex education and 32 do not. In some states, such as Louisiana, kids might learn about HIV/AIDS, but not about any other STDs or how to prevent pregnancy. (Masland, section 1: How much to teach?) Conservatives promotes abstaining from sexual activity whereas liberals counter that teenager need to be equipped with skills and information about birth control. After evaluating the pros and cons on each side of the issue, we may come to the conclusion that a combination of both works the best to prevent unplanned pregnancy among American teens.


Since young people tend to engage in sexual activities more sporadically, pro-abstinence groups believe that delay in sexual involvement can reduce the risk of negative outcomes from sexual behavior. Without doubt, teens who experiment sexually are more likely to become pregnant. Concerning teenage childhood bearing as one of the problems associated with premature sex, we can see the drawbacks are obvious: “[they] have to face potentially life altering decisions about resolving their pregnancy through abortion, adoption, or parenthood.” (Moore et al., introduction, review section 1: Sexual Intercourse & section 2: Contraception) Bridget E. Maher, a policy analyst with the Family Research Council, also realizes unwed teen mothers are likely to live in poverty and depend on welfare. “Half of [them] do not complete high school, their babies are likely to have low birth weights, and eventually вЂ?to have lower grades, to leave high school without graduating, to be abused or neglected, to have a child as an unmarried teenager, and to be delinquentвЂ™Ð²Ð‚Ñœ, she asserts. (qtd. in “Lax Morals” par.5) Therefore, evidences in the article “Beginning too soon” suggest that postponing sexual initiation by learning about social pressures, negotiation, and refusal skills is one of the solutions. (Moore et al., conclusion par.7)

Abstinence programs teach positive attitudes about intimacy, enhance the quality of relationships, and as a result lower the risk of unwanted pregnancy. In Texas, an eighteen-year-old Ashley claims sexual active teens are “laying the foundations for troubled relationships later in life”. She explains, "at some point everybody ends up getting married. Everybody wants commitment at some point and nobody likes to be cheated on. But a lot of the young people I know who go around have experiences with lots of different people are just preparing themselves for not knowing how to be committed to somebody. Once you get into the practice of doing whatever you want, it's hard to change when you're older." (O'Brien, section 3: religious right)

However, the findings in a study carried throughout 1999 to 2006 by Congress may disappoint many of those conservatives given that abstinence sex program has no effect on teens initiate sex. The study started when the children were between eleven and twelve years old and ended when they were an average of 16.5 years of age: “half of the students who had been enrolled in the abstinence classes had remained abstinent. However, so did half of the students from the control group.” The study shows that the students who attended abstinence classes did not have less sexual partners on average, either. (Thompson, par.1-3) This is further supported by the Oxford University research team who finds the abstinence-only programs had no impact on “the age at which individuals lost their virginity, whether they had unprotected sex, the number of sexual partners, the rates of sexually transmitted diseases or the number of pregnancies”. (“No-sex programmes” par.7)


That Americans broadly define abstinence is one of the obstacles that makes it difficult to carry out. According to a poll by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, respondents have varying opinions when they were asked to define the word abstinence: “Did they include abstaining from sexual intercourse? Oral sex? Intimate touching? Passionate kissing? Masturbation?” A large percentage of Americans said yes to all of those, with 63 percent thinking abstinence included abstaining from intimate touching, 40 percent thinking it included abstaining from passionate kissing, and 44 percent thinking it included abstaining from masturbation. (“Sex Education” par.13)

Vague rules make the situation even worse. Young people are bombarded with a barrage of confusing, inconsistent messages because the adults themselves hold a scope of attitudes about adolescent sexual behaviors вЂ" from rigidly abandon to openly accept. Titillating messages about sex from movies, magazine advertisements, and television shows are also at odd with the voices on the religious moral grounds. The following poll result best demonstrates the case:

In general, evangelical or born-again Christians have very different views from other Americans about sex and sexuality. Eighty-one percent of evangelical or born-again Christians believe it is morally wrong for unmarried adults to engage in sexual intercourse, compared with 33 percent of other Americans. Likewise, 78 percent of evangelical or born-again Christians believe that sexual activity



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