The conflicting views about health care reform have been making huge headlines long before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010. This topic is not one that is going to run out of steam any time soon. One component of the ACA that has received a very limited amount of scrutiny in the press is the provision that calls for a return of abstinence-only sex education programs in public secondary education.
The federal funding of abstinence programs nothing new. The practice began in 1981 during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. When George W. Bush was in office, he created a program called Community Based Abstinence Education (CBAE). During his presidency, funding for the program went from $80 million in 2001 to $200 million in 2007. President Obama strongly opposed it and completely eliminated abstinence funding from his 2010 budget. However, in order to get the Affordable Care Act passed, a provision to restore the funding was included in the ACA as a concession to appease conservative members of Congress.
The bill restores $250 million over five years for states to sponsor abstinence-only education programs. The programs are meant to teach young people to wait until marriage to lose their virginity. Proponents of abstinence-only education stand by the fact that it is the only surefire way to avoid a pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. Critics say that this type of sex education, in contrast to comprehensive sexual ed., excludes important sexual and reproductive health information, like birth control and safe sex. In addition, sex-education regarding the LGBT community is not addressed in abstinence ed.
By the numbers, evidence does not show that abstinence-only education is effective in realizing its mission. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that teaching about contraception was not associated with increased risk of adolescent sexual activity or STD. Adolescents who received comprehensive sex education had a lower risk of pregnancy than adolescents who received abstinence-only or no sex education.
What are your thoughts? Are you for or against federal funding for abstinence-only education?