In addition to being an ineffective deterrent to unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence only education prevents young women from making well informed decisions about their sexuality. Cases of teen pregnancy and STD/HIV infections is on the rise despite the government allocating funds for abstinence only programs. This paper seeks to look at the government policies with regard to abstinence-only education programs and its relationship with unwanted pregnancies.
It is a known fact that sexual abstinence is being practiced in all countries in the world as a sure way of preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Men and women of all ages who are not ready to accept the risks that accompany sexual activity embrace abstinence which is a normal and acceptable practice. As a way of expressing love, affection and tenderness, majority resort to intercourse and sexual activity.
Sex is also being used by couples to strengthen their relationships. However, it has often been argued that using sex to cement relationships can distort one’s judgment. Among women, having sex may strengthen the feeling of love but do not actually cement or deepen the relationship. Exploring sexual behavior within an environment of deep commitment where having children is considered as a possibility is always rewarding. Majority of people are however not prepared for commitment hence opt for abstinence until they develop a stable relationship.
Abstinence is 100% effective in protecting an individual from sexually transmitted. However, if the majority of the population could realize its effectiveness, then we would not be having such headlines like the ones we have seen in the past of teen births being on the rise. However, abstinence is not an easy practice considering how strong sexual drives are among humans.
The rate of teen births steadily declined since 1991 and this could have been because of the intensive educational campaigns that were initiated during that period. These campaigns included encouraging people to use contraceptives and condoms and enlightening people on the risks of Aids and sexually transmitted diseases. However, today statistics now show an increase by 3% in teen births the first time ever in 14 years. (Wilson, Kelly, Patricia,2005) Is it that the sex education programs that the government adopted are no longer working?
The government has tried to show some effort in curbing STDs and unwanted pregnancies. The first federal abstinence-only program was enacted in 1981 and this was designed primarily to support pregnant and parenting teenagers. This came through the adolescent Family Life Act which was also passed the same year. AFLA also funded “abstinence-only” programs meant to encourage responsibility and self discipline among teenagers (Abstinence Only Programs 2008, p.2).
Abstinence-only program’s purpose was to teach the general population and especially the teenagers how they stand to gain from abstinence. It also sought to teach abstinence from pre-marital to all schooling children.
The abstinence-only program was supposed to teach the values of abstinence with regard to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. According to this program, the expected standard of human sexual activity revolved around a mutually faithful monogamous relationship. However, with all these well clarified goals, current scientific research shows that this program is ineffective.
A study of ‘abstinence-only-until marriages’ program inferred that the classes fail to serve its goal of delaying the onset of sexual activity the young people. An evaluation of 11 of these programs showed that they do not have a lasting positive effect on the asexual behavior of young people (Ibid 4).
Instead of a positive effect on the young people they showed a negative willingness to use contraceptive because the program emphasized on contraceptive failure. It has often been reiterated that abstinence-only programs endanger the youths because adolescents are denied complete information. These programs fail to provide contraception information and in some cases, they have been accused of providing wrong information which may lead to youths forgoing contraceptive use.
Teens are exposed to pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases because of lack of responsible sex education. Only safer sex intervention can reduce unprotected sexual intercourse as compared to abstinence only programs. The Federal Fund for abstinence -only programs have negatively influenced schools. Avery good example involves the Gloucester High school in Massachusetts with the summer vacations beginning 17 girls at the school are expecting babies (Kathleen Kingsbury, Wednesday June 18, 2008).
This proves further the failure of the program to curb pre-marital pregnancies. In order to reduce the prevalence of this at the school a local pediatrician advocated for the prescription of contraceptives. However, this has been met with hostility. Amazingly it is the desire of these teens to get pregnant and this only proves how distorted their perception towards life is.
An effective sex education program should include teaching teenagers about abstinence even though it is not sufficient in itself. A complete and accurate information about reproductive health should be the core of teenage education. This should include abstinence prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV and above all prevention of pregnancy. Teenagers can only make informed and appropriate decisions if they have access to reliable information about their productive health.
Cases like the one at Gloucester High School can only be prevented through enlightening the students on the dangers involved in early pregnancy. Schools should be at the forefront in teaching the science behind sex and factually based reproductive health education. However, much of the sex education should be done at home and young girls should be at the core of advice into the dangers of playing with boys.
They should be taught the virtues of responsibility and accountability so they may grow up with the full knowledge of the science of reproduction and its purpose.
Abstinence Only Programs, Center for Gender Studies. 2005
Kingsbury, Kathleen. Pregnancy Boom at Gloucester High. “Time”. Wednesday June 18, 2008
Wilson, Kelly L. Goodson, Patricia Pruit. “A review of 21 curricula for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.”, Journal of School Health, March 2005 Issue