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But abstinence-only programs, as defined by Title V of the Social Security Act, also teach teenagers that premarital sex and bearing children outside of marriage have “harmful psychological and physical” effects, and that alcohol and drugs fuel sexual advances, among other problematic points.But a 2017 study found that abstinence-only programs are actually ineffective at preventing sexual activity, pregnancy, and sexually-transmitted infections.These two groups were also compared to young people who reported receiving no formal sex education.To assess sexual risk researchers looked at whether respondents reported ever having engaged in vaginal intercourse, been involved in a pregnancy, or been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD).The programs, according to the study, fail to reduce sexual risk behaviors and did not increase condom use by withholding medically-accurate sexual and reproductive health information from students.To that end, a study by , published this year, found that teenagers in abstinence-only education programs were at greater risk of engaging in unprotected sex.“Not only are they leaving out important elements, they don’t even succeed at helping young people to remain abstinent,” Nicole Cushman, executive director of Answer, a national sexual education organization based in New Jersey, tells .More importantly, however, it confirms that programs that teach young people about both abstinence and contraception/disease prevention are, in fact, effective.In particular, the authors found that receiving information about birth control in formal sex education was associated with a 50% lower risk of teen pregnancy when compared to receiving information only on abstinence.
The approach, developed long before marriage equality existed in the United States, is built on a heteronormative framework that both marginalizes and ostracizes LGBTQ teens, says Dr.A large body of research has found abstinence-only programs to be harmful to youth.Yet, despite warnings from the medical and public health communities, President Donald Trump once again wants to fund abstinence-only education while cutting back on sexual education programs that work.They don’t learn anything about how to have sex with a partner that they’re attracted to, and how to do it in a safe way that minimizes the risk of STDs and pregnancy,” she says. It should also cover what healthy relationships look like, which abstinence-only education doesn’t achieve. Yet, research shows that abstinence-only education fails to teach youth what a healthy relationship looks like, nor does it address dating violence as a whole, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The report also noted that several programs depict domestic violence as something that’s solvable by “abstaining from sexual activity,” despite the lack of evidence supporting such a claim.“These programs really reinforce these outdated ideas about gender, and that can be physically dangerous,” Cushman says.Research aside, the medical community has publicly rejected abstinence-only education.The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine, among other preeminent scientific and public health groups, have all spoken out against the ineffective curriculum throughout the years, instead calling for comprehensive sex education and HIV prevention programs that are both medically accurate and culturally appropriate.More so, members of the medical community, such as the American Public Health Association and the American Psychological Association, do not support the federal government funneling public funds into abstinence-only and abstinence-only-until-marriage education.“They’re based on fear and shame,” Rhodes tells .“Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs do exactly the opposite.”The premise of abstinence-only education is clear: Wait to have sex until marriage.By abstaining from sexual activity, the approach argues, you can avoid pregnancy, STDs, and other related health problems, which is true.Though a number of recent studies have evaluated specific programs, little research has been done on the adolescent population as a whole.This study used data collected in 2002–03 through the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), a nationwide survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.