more proof that abstinence only = FAIL

I’ve written before about how abstinence-only sex miseducation doesn’t work, as have lots of other people. Here’s another piece of evidence.

According to the report to Changing Behavior Risk for Pregnancy Among High School Students in the United States, 1991–2007, which the Guttmacher Institute released, teen pregnancy rates are clearly linked to contraceptive use. It’s a surprise!

Here’s a section from the press release:

Our previous research has shown that contraceptive use was a key factor in reducing teen pregnancy rates in the 1990s, despite little significant change in teen sexual activity. The authors suggest that the recent decline in teen contraceptive use since 2003 could be the result of faltering HIV prevention efforts among youth, or of more than a decade of abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education that does not mention contraception unless it is to disparage its use and effectiveness.

This reversal in contraceptive use is consistent with increases in the teen birth rate in 2006 and 2007 as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and may well portend further increases in teen pregnancies and births in 2008. The authors recommend reinvigorated efforts at both the state and national levels to promote contraceptive use among teens through medically accurate sex education and increased access to health services, to effectively address the problem of teen pregnancy. The Western European experience in reducing teen pregnancy and childbearing—with rates that are far lower than in the United States—suggests that efforts to improve teen contraceptive use are warranted.

So let me make sure I have this right. If we want to lower the rate of teen pregnancy, we need to offer accurate information about sexuality and contraception. And lying to teens about sex and trying to scare them into not having sex doesn’t make them not have sex, but it leads to increases in pregnancy. Pretty groundbreaking, isn’t it.

I’m really impressed with the last two sentences from the report. They’re couched in very politically savvy language and it’s a masterpiece of walking a fine line:

The U.S. might redirect its energy from persistently divisiveness political debates around sexuality education and abortion to support reinvigorated efforts to prevention of unplanned pregnancy by promoting the importance of consistent and effective contraception and protection against STIs. A consensus among adults on how to promote health sexuality would benefit teens as they struggle with the perils and perplexities of emerging adolescent sexuality.

It sure would. ‘Nuff said.
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2 Responses so far.

  1. Geoff Capp says:

    Yes, but don’t forget that, from the “abstinence only” viewpoint, this is quite literally a Holy War, and is thus not susceptible of logic, much less Demon Science. All the human research in the world cannot controvert the literal and infallible Word of God, and la-la-la-la Not Listening!

    This research also seems to presume that the abstinence only crowd actually has an interest in reducing teen pregnancy. This is an assumption for which I see little evidence. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, for example, certainly has no such agenda; quite the opposite, in fact, as they marry off their teen daughters to male elders, while contraception remains an abomination in the eyes of God and a violation of the injunction to “go forth and multiply.”

    The real education that is necessary, if it is even possible, is not about contraception so much as it is about critical thinking. That is an up-hill battle among the segments of the population that find any kind of thinking to be undesirable, if not downright sinful.

  2. […] Speaking of which, the authors also looked at the research on abstinence programs and found that they have no significant impact on condom use, age of intercourse, or the other factors that are associated with sexual risk taking. There are some methodological difficulties that make assessing them challenging. It’s almost as if the people who promote abstinence-only miseducation don’t want to admit that it doesn’t work. […]

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