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Abstinence continues to hinder progress, health education

According to KidsHealth.org, a site aiming to promote healthy lifestyles among youth, “abstinence is the only form of birth control that is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. Abstinence also protects people against STDs.” This is the same quote that, according to the Guttmacher Institute, about one in four high school students hear in the compulsory high school health class in Fort Bend ISD.

Part of the curriculum taught by teachers in health class is the showing of people’s bodies affected by STDs, telling stories of teen pregnancies and the urging of students to “not have sex until you are ready.” However, the latter is rarely, if ever, emphasized.

Health teachers have designed a way to scare young people away from sex, a natural act that will take place regardless of the curriculum being taught. While unsafe sex among not just youth, but society as a whole, is dangerous, teaching students the appropriate measures to take when engaging in sexual activity is necessary.

Opponents of abortions and teen pregnancy, like Jill Stanek, a prominent pro-life figure who was quoted in an interview with the Huffington Post as being against sexual education, are fighting against the very thing that could be used to prevent said abortions and teenage pregnancies.

Cases of rape, abortion and unwanted pregnancy among young people could become less frequent if sexual education is taught, rather than having ‘abstinence-only’ curriculum and making sex seem like a horror movie. These cases are caused by pure ignorance, not by careless people — the more taboo the topic of sex becomes, the more teenagers will want to engage in it.

“(Health class) makes sex seem scary and bad,” said biochemistry freshman Galia Weber. “(Health teachers) should just promote that it is natural and that students should do it safely after thinking about it very thoroughly.”

This article is not meant to promote sex among underaged individuals, but instead simply to attack a broken system. A study conducted by Washington University in St. Louis affirmed the belief that abstinence-only education is not working: “The more religious the state, the less condom education was taught,” the study found.

This could give a reason as to why, according to the study, more conservative states see higher rates of teen pregnancies. Instead of being taught how to correctly use a condom or how to access birth control, children are taught to stay away from sex, which in turn entices them to have sex more.

Those fighting against sexual education, like Texas Rep. Steve Toth, may say that sexual education will get young people “hot and bothered” and, in effect, cause more unwanted pregnancies. The WUSTL study disagrees, finding that teen pregnancy rates have gone down in recent years. This is highly associated with the veering-away from abstinence-only education to safe-sex education.

“Explaining the risks and how pregnancy and diseases can be avoided will be good for young people because it will be on them whether they follow what they were taught or not,” Weber said, “not saying, ‘don’t have sex ever,’ because that might make them want to do it more.”

While promoting safe sex instead of abstinence may seem controversial, teaching children that sex is a bad thing could have not only short-term consequences, but long-term consequences as well.

Opinion columnist Blake Mudd is a freshman journalism and may be reached at [email protected]

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