The Problem of Abstinence

One of the most pressing issues facing youth today is the constant debate regarding sex education. Despite the widespread information and availability of different contraceptive methods ranging from the artificial means such as condoms and oral contraceptive pills, to the permanent ones such as tubal ligation and vasectomy – there is still a gap between the statistics of birth rates in the country, and the attempts to control the increasing population.

One of the most talked about problems in contraception is the fact that there are states that persist on abstinence being the only accepted measure to control birth rates, and it being also the only method that deserves to be included in the sex education classes among public schools. However, a study completed at the University of Georgia shows that abstinence only programs do not show promising results.

The study, published in the online journal PLoS ONE, mentioned that public schools who limit sex education to abstinence only sex education curriculum have significantly higher rates of teenage pregnancies along with higher birth rates compared with other areas who have sex education programs that cover a wide range of contraceptive measures.

A plant biology and life sciences professor from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Kathrin Stranger Hall, who is also one of the authors in the resulting paper looked at the data of birth rates and pregnancy among teenage women in 48 states of the United States and re-assessed how effective the approaches to reproductive health education were based on the implemented laws and policies locally. The results of the research conducted adds support to the theory that abstinence only sex education classes do not translate to reduction of pregnancy rates among teenage women.

According to the researchers, the results of the study are very much relevant to what lawmakers are dealing with since in December 2009 the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative; an evidence based program aimed towards preventing early pregnancy, was signed and given $114 million to implement the program. Together with the launching of this new program, there was also $250 million allocated for the mandatory abstinence only program after the funding for this program was renewed by the federal government in 2010. The funding was said to come from an amendment to health reform legislation.

The study conducted together with David Hall, a professor of genetics from the same institution, was one of the first large scale research studies that was able to provide evidence and support on the problem of prescribing an abstinence only program where in fact the students from these public schools do not seem to translate the program into actual abstinent behavior.


Source: Kathrin F. Stranger-Hall and David W. Hall. PLoS One. 14 October, 2011.