As states debate the best sex education policy, teen birth rates are decreasing nationwide (Photo courtesy of

Abstinence Only Sex Education: Does It Work?

By Meta J. Mereday

            According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of teen births has decreased as reported in 2010. 

Most states reported drops in teen births and CDC officials are attributing the decrease to an increase in pregnancy prevention formats. 

Others believe that teenagers are either having less sex or using contraception.  One format that is creating controversy is the abstinence only sex education policy, but how effective is this policy and what do parents and guardians really feel about it?

            Abstinence only sex education focuses on young people abstaining from sexual activity until marriage and not being educated about contraceptives as it would be seen as promoting pre-marital sexual activity.

Experts and parents do not believe that abstinence only sex education is the answer.

Amanda Peterson Beadle, who wrote “Teen Pregnancies Highest in States With Abstinence-Only Policies” for, highlights a significant flaw in the abstinence only sex education policy.

She notes that “researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that teenagers who received some type of comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant. And in 2007, a federal report showed that abstinence-only programs had “no impact on rates of sexual abstinence.” 

            For example, even though there was a decrease in teen births nationwide, Mississippi still have the nation’s highest teen birth rates and it does not require sex education in schools. However, when it is taught, the abstinence only sex education policy is the state standard.  

Not only are the results of abstinence only sex education policies not well regarded, the conflicts that are caused in a society that promotes sex makes it even more challenging for parents and guardians.

“How can you expect young people to practice abstinence when their hormones are raging and they are constantly exposed to sex through music, television, radio, movies, etc?,” said Randye Bullock.  “The only things you can do is to tell them as parents what you expect, teach them right from wrong and common sense, and pray.”  

States such as New Hampshire, which reportedly has the lowest teen birth rates, administers a comprehensive sex education program in its schools that includes information about abstinence and condoms. 

California, despite having a law requiring that sexual health education in public schools be medically accurate and comprehensive, is facing a civil lawsuit by two mothers in a Central Valley school district to test that law.

According to NBC News, they are suing the Clovis United School District because of its abstinence only sex education policy and the harm they feel that the children will face.

Their claim is that the policy puts the health of the students at risk by failing to provide them with information about condoms and contraception and to educate them about preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

While Mississippi’s state standard leans towards an abstinence only sex education policy, it does leave the final decision to the school districts to determine whether they will implement the format that promotes abstinence only or an abstinence plus sex education policy that includes information about contraception and condoms. 

School districts including Natchez-Adams County recently voted to include an abstinence only policy for its sixth graders.

Many continue to debate who has the responsibility to teach the children responsibly when it comes to sexual behavior.

While parents and administrators debate the issues and set policies, the number of teen births and sexually transmitted diseases nationwide identifies a more insidious third party – peer pressure – that is negatively influencing young impressionable lives.

Media and society have a role as well, but when parents and school leaders work together and focus on the children, the results are A-plus!

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