President Barack Obama recently proposed to end funding for abstinence-only education programs in the 2017 budget year.
Abstinence-only programs typically receive an annual $10 million grant, and usually do not include information on alternative birth control methods, such as condoms.
Jesseca Boyer, vice president for policy, interim president and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., gave a statement in response to the president’s proposal. “The President’s proposed budget increases support for programs and efforts that seek to equip young people with the skills they need to ensure their lifelong sexual health and well-being,” she said.
Krista Gay, senior child and family studies major, said that abstinence-only education is not effective in any form. “A quick Google search easily shows that those who had abstinence education get pregnant at higher rates than their peers,” Gay said. “If anything, studies show that those who have comprehensive sex education delay having sex.”
Rachel Gaikema, senior English major, had similar views. “While I don’t agree with abstinence education, I do acknowledge and respect that that’s what some people believe, and they’re allowed to teach it to their kids and loved ones all they want,” Gaikema said. “However, I think that in official education, people should be taught [otherwise].”
The Centers for Disease Control states, “no protective method is 100 percent effective, and condom use cannot guarantee absolute protection against any STD or pregnancy…Abstinence from vaginal, anal and oral intercourse is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent HIV, other STDs and pregnancy.”
A fact sheet from the Guttmacher Institute reports, “There is no evidence to date that abstinence-only-until-marriage education delays teen sexual activity. Moreover, research shows that abstinence-only strategies may deter contraceptive use among sexually active teens, increasing their risk of unintended pregnancy and STIs.”
In addition to whether comprehensive or abstinence-only programs should be taught, many people have different opinions about what constitutes a comprehensive education. Gay notes that it should be age appropriate.
“We are simply teaching teens how bodies work. Sex can have consequences, and there is nothing wrong with teaching ‘here is what sex is’ and ‘here are the consequences,’ [as well as] helping teens make informed decisions.”
Gaikema suggested other important factors, such as disease prevention.
“People should be taught how to have sex safely, how to protect themselves from STDs and sexual predators, the importance of consent, how the human body works in relation to sex and so on,” Gaikema said.
“As long as [abstinence-only education] is replaced with a comprehensive sex education program, I would be okay with this,” Gay said of Obama’s proposal to cut funding for abstinence-only sex education.
“People are entitled to their opinions in regards to sex. It’s something that should be taken seriously and, as such, people’s opinions about it should also be taken seriously,” Gaikema said.
“However, I definitely think it’s good that sex education is moving away from abstinence alone and moving more towards the all-inclusive teaching of sex, because people who want to have sex are going to do so regardless of what they’ve been taught, so they might as well be taught to do it safely.”