Abstinence-only education has gained strength because of the Bush administration’s advocacy. It’s supposed benefits include waiting until marriage to have sex, thereby reducing rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies. Organizations like Wonderful Days and The Heritage Foundation tout the benefits of remaining sexually inexperienced until marriage. Although this is a great idea in theory, it is backed up by specious and biased science ultimately based in politics.
Abstinence-only legislature originated with the Adolescent Family Life Act of 1981. This led to allocated funds for family planning programs, excepting those associated with abortion. The American Civil Liberties Union and members of the clergy filed a lawsuit against the Adolescent Family Life Act claiming it was unconstitutional and endorsed religion. It was settled out of court with the conditions that the program cannot have religious content and must be medically sound. Those stipulations were not properly followed.
Abstinence-only education is not education at all, but misinformation. A major study conducted for Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) cites cases in which false information and scare tactics are an intrinsic part of the curriculum. One part of the curriculum discusses condoms and HIV, citing an inaccurate study criticized by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for methodological discrepancies. The study concluded condoms would not significantly reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV, a stark contrast to CDC reports. The curriculum erroneously asserts the HIV virus is small enough to pass through condoms. Facts and statistics are not discussed, much less how to properly use a condom.
The Bush administration and its appointees display an irrational phobia of comprehensive sex education and replace science with politics. In 2007, Susan Orr was appointed as the head of family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services. Orr supported a proposal to stop coverage of birth control for federal employees, rationalizing fertility is not a disease. She referred to coverage as evidence of the "culture of death."
Abstinence-only until marriage is an unrealistic ideal considering 70 percent of all Americans do not wait until marriage to have sex. It shames teens about sex and makes them less likely to use contraception when they do have sex. It is perhaps not a coincidence that Texas leads the nation both in money spent on abstinence-only education and in teen pregnancies.
Comprehensive sex education cannot wait for the next presidential administration to condone it. Our lives and health depend on it.
Corgey, a political science junior, can be reached via [email protected].