The right-wing ascendancy in
If their goal is to delay sexual activity, reduce disease, or prevent pregnancy, they might want to think twice. It may be true that abstinence prevents disease and unwanted pregnancy, but it’s also true that abstinence education doesn’t. Instead, according to articles such as this 2006 study in The Journal of Adolescent Health, it is “comprehensive” programs—those that include abstinence teaching along with information on birth control and STD prevention—that achieve the most success in reducing rates of pregnancy and disease. One analysis cited in the 2006 report demonstrated that “comprehensive sexuality education effectively promoted abstinence as well as other protective behaviors,” (my italics) and that of 28 such programs studied, “nine were able to delay initiation of sexual intercourse, 18 showed no impact, and one hastened initiation of sex.” And while there was less data available on abstinence-only programs, reviews nonetheless found “no scientific evidence that abstinence only programs demonstrate efficacy in delaying initiation of sexual intercourse.” A 2008 study in the same journal similarly found that “abstinence-only programs had no signiﬁcant effect in delaying the initiation of sexual activity or in reducing the risk for teen pregnancy and STD.” Comprehensive programs, on the other hand, “were signiﬁcantly associated with reduced risk of teen pregnancy, whether compared with no sex education or with abstinence-only sex education.” In other words, proponents of the new legislation can argue that comprehensive sex education is inappropriate, but they can’t say it’s ineffective—especially compared to the alternatives.