Roadblocks Imposed by the Federal Government’s Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Education Program
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Most adults agree on what is not healthy for teenagers. Health professionals, educators,policymakers, and parents share a deep concern about unintended adolescent pregnancy, sexual abuse, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. The question for policymakers is what approach will be most successful in helping young people avoid these negative outcomes and grow to become sexually healthy adults.
In recent years, the federal government has allocated hundreds of millions of
dollars for programs that have as their “exclusive purpose” teaching teens to remain abstinent until marriage. These programs pose a simplistic solution to a complex challenge and provide young people with one message: avoid all sexual activity.
Whether adults agree with young people’s actions or not, they cannot ignore the
fact that millions of teenagers in the United States are engaging in sexual behavior. That is why it is time to take a new view of sexuality education, one that helps adolescents postpone early sexual activity, protect themselves from disease and pregnancy when they do become sexually active, and ultimately become sexually healthy adults.
Comprehensive and age-appropriate, school-based sexuality education should be
taught in every grade. Such programs respect the diversity of values and beliefs
represented in the community and complement and augment the sexuality education children receive from their families, religious and community groups, and health care professionals.
Support for comprehensive sexuality education is at an all time high. A recent poll
conducted by SIECUS and Advocates for Youth shows that 93 percent of adults
support teaching sexuality education in high school and 84 percent support sexuality education for middle school. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a survey that found virtually all parents, teachers, principals, and students support some form of sexuality education that includes information on birth control and “safer sex.”
A new view of sexuality education that ensures young people access to comprehensive skills and information is the first step toward a sexually healthy America.
President Advocates for Youth
President and CEO