Sex Education? Moving Beyond Abstinence-Only

For the first time in over ten years, some government-funded sex education programs in our nation’s schools are moving away from the promotion of abstinence-only.

How is this happening? A five-year, $375 million grant is being divided among 28 programs that have been proven to lower the pregnancy rate, regardless of their strategies, according to a report by the Associated Press.

More Than Just Sex

One such program is the Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program. Birth control is distributed as part of the program, but students also get art and music classes, science field trips, homework tutoring, mental health counseling and free medical and dental care. They are also required to get summer jobs, open a bank account, save 10 percent of their wages and learn how to balance a checkbook.

“There’s a growing realization that we have to talk to young people about relationships. It’s not just about body parts,” says Bill Alpert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

But Abstinence-Only Programs Still Flourish

As Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux wrote here several months ago, abstinence programs do still receive a $50 million annual federal grant, as part of the recently passed health care reform act. To receive this funding, states must match $3 for every $4, and about 30 states have applied for that money. However, the $375 million Health and Human Services grant does not require states to provide matching funds.

But Do They Work?

The abstinence-centred approach was funded by a Republican Congress in the late 1990s and then under President George W. Bush to the tune of around $1.5 billion. Critics point out there is little proof that these programs lowered the teen pregnancy rate. In fact, the teen birth rate rose from 2005 to 2007 after years of a steady decline, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Two Very Diverse Perspectives on Sex Ed.

Is it a good thing that two very diverse approaches to sex education are being funded by the government simultaneously?

However the teaching happens, it seems that while most teens have had some formal sex education, many fewer have been taught birth control methods, reports the CDC. And presumably even fewer have learned through sex education programs to value their sexuality as an important component of their identity, or to get a sense of who they are and what they want; knowledge that can lead to better decision-making overall.

Let’s hope these new programs succeed.

Creative Commons - Monica Arellano=Ongpin


Jo S.about a year ago

Thank you Judy.

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert2 years ago

Abstinence only is a fantasy.

ERIKA SOMLAI2 years ago

thank you for sharing

Nicole C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Charles, 95% of people that get married are not virgins. Are you telling me that they don't need sex education to learn how to protect themselves? That is fine and dandy that your grandson wants to wait until marriage but you really shouldn't tolerate him berating women with such language.

Also just because someone has sex doesn't mean they will get and STD. You would probably have a heart attack if you knew how many people I have slept with and I have never had an STI in my life and I have been checked several times. Condoms now are made different than decades ago and break less. Reality vs scare tactics.

In comprehensive sex ed, abstinence is taught right along side other information. If the teens in your family are so tempted by the world that they need to be kept home so as not to have their minds changed, I don't see how they will be able to keep their minds made up about much in life. Is your grandson not going to be able to say no to peer pressure in college and drink too much just because it is there in front of him? My mother taught me to stick to what I believe in and not do anything that I don't want to do regardless of my peers.

Charles Webb
Charles Webb6 years ago

Excuse me, it's condom--I think. The old brain not working real well today.

Charles Webb
Charles Webb6 years ago

My great-grandkids get to meet someone in the AIDS ward who caught the disease through a broken condum. It scares the living crap out of them. 2 of my children came to be through a faulty condum. There was no birth control pills or other methods back then. The kids were told about it when they were old enough, and of course a strong sense of values, self-worth and fear and love of G-d. Nobody in my very large family has gotten pregnant before marriage or gotten an STD. One of my g-grandsons is hounded by girls wanting to have sex with him. He calls them skanky bitches and none of them are going to get his virginity. That is reserved for his wife. If he can do it, I'm sure every kid can. But if you tell them "I know you're going to do it anyway, here's a condom", what do you think is going to happen? None of us believe in sex education in schools, and some of my family's kids are home-schooled for that very reason. Forced or coerced sex education is a good way to get kids pulled. Abstinance only works if it's done right.

jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

Just say no doesn't work. It's about time adults remember that when you say no to a child, the child takes it as a challenge.

Willie J.
Willie J.6 years ago

I'm glad to see things like that. I'm all for comprehensive sex ed and that's my stance on this issue. For those wondering why a guy is on this side, I'm 24 and a virgin. No pledges and no influence.

Nicole C.
Past Member 6 years ago

A good idea to teach is that penetration is not the only form of sex. Mutual masturbation is close to risk free.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal6 years ago

Reality check....Abstinence is not the only method for lowering the pregnancy rate among teens. Let's hear it for education so our youth make responsible and informed choices.