California Sex Education Curriculum Raises Questions About Efficacy of Abstinence-Only, Other Curriculum Methods
California remains the only state that has refused federal funding for abstinence-only sex education programs, raising questions about how effective various approaches to sex education are at preventing teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
According to the Chronicle, California's "abstinence-plus" programs send "mixed messages: don't have sex, but if you do, do it as safely as possible." Although this message might be "contradictory," it is "also seemingly effective," the Chronicle reports.
For example, teen pregnancy rates in California are higher than the national average but are decreasing more than twice as fast as teen pregnancy rates for states that mandate abstinence-only sex education programs.
However, data on the effectiveness of various sex education programs has reached different conclusions. According to the Chronicle, until more conclusive research is available, advocates on both side "will continue to rely on statistics like lamp posts: they're good to lean on but not really very illuminating" (Haddock, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/22).
The Bush administration's abstinence-only sex education approach is "just not effective" at preventing teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) writes in a Contra Costa Times opinion piece. Federally funded abstinence-only programs often contain medically inaccurate information and "convey religious messages or impose religious viewpoints," Lee writes, adding that "the goal ... should be the effective prevention of unintended teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, not promoting ideology or mobilizing constituencies."
According to Lee, "Young people who receive sex education that includes information about abstinence and contraception are more likely to delay sexual activity and use contraceptives when they do become sexually active" (Lee, Contra Costa Times, 5/22).