Abstinence education

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Abstinence education, also called abstinence-only, is the policy (long advocated by conservatives in general and the George W. Bush administration in particular)[1] of requiring school sex-education programs to teach that complete abstinence from any sexual activity is the only fully effective and reliable method of preventing sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy.

Critics do not deny that statement, but contend that more harm than good results from the policy's requirement that contraceptive and disease-prevention methods, such as condoms, may only be mentioned in order to emphasize their failure rates;[2] and that it further represents a strategy of the religious right to undermine the constitutional separation of church and state in the U.S.[3]

Research on effectiveness of abstinence-only programs

Many of the programs require teens to take a pledge that they will remain sexual virgins until after marriage, but a 2008 study of data from a large federal survey revealed that over half of youths became sexually active whether or not they took an abstinence pledge. The study also showed that teens who took the pledge tended to have more negative views of condoms, and to use them less. The percentage of teens who did have sex and took precautions against sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers. [4]


Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Abstinence Education, Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, retrieved March 22, 2004.
  2. Gloria Feldt, "Abstinence-Only Education is Irresponsible (and Dangerous)" (speech), April 8, 2002, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (retrieved March 22, 2004).
  3. Sex & Censorship Committee, National Coalition Against Censorship, "Abstinence-Only Education: Why First Amendment Supporters Should Oppose It," Planned Parenthood Federation of America, January 2005.
  4. Rob Stein, Washington Post Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds: Teenagers Who Make Such Promises Are Just as Likely to Have Sex, and Less Likely to Use Protection, the Data Indicate. Health section. Monday, December 29, 2008; Page A02

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