Safe Sex

By , Binghamton, NY
While some the nation's schools combine pro-abstinence lessons with information about contraception and safe sex, about one-third of schools opt for abstinence-only programs. Recent studies indicate that sex education programs in schools often emphasize abstinence from sexual activity as the only safe and moral choice for teenagers.

On One Hand...

A majority of schools teach that abstinence is the preferable option for teenagers, but also offer information about birth control options and disease transmission. Education decisions should be driven by empirical evidence rather than political ideology. No conclusive studies have shown that abstinence-only education prevents teens from engaging in sexual activity at an early age.

The spread of disease among teenagers and teen pregnancy are public health issues that will only worsen if these issues are left out of sex education classes.

On the Other Hand...

Teenagers should be taught that abstinence is the only sure protection against pregnancy and STDs. Discussion of contraception options conveys the message that pre-marital sex is acceptable, and it encourages teenagers to become sexually active at an earlier age.

Abstinence-only programs also teach the importance of self-control and responsibility, and promote the development of a value system about sex.



The welfare reform legislation signed into law in 1996 designated $250 million over five years for abstinence-only programs in schools, and the law specifies that school districts that accept these funds cannot include information about contraception in their sexual education programs.


A 1997 report from the Institute of Medicine said there are 3 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers annually.


Among young girls, 8 in 10 are still sexually inexperienced at age fifteen, while 7 in 10 boys are inexperience at the same age.


Teenage women's contraceptive use at first intercourse rose from 48 percent to 65 percent during the 1980s, almost entirely because of a doubling in condom use. By 1995, use at first intercourse reached 78 percent, with 2/3 of it condom use.


The overall U.S. teenage pregnancy rate declined 17 percent between 1990 and 1996, from 117 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15-19 to 97 per 1,000.





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