A recent NY Times article explores the policy of abstinence only sex education as driven by politics. Aaron E. Carroll explains that the current administration has deviated from funding sex education programs that are effective based on evidence outcomes. Although federal support for abstinence based education had increased in the past administrations, the requirement for sex education to be taught in schools had actually fallen "to 48 percent from 67 percent."
This article lays out three important facts to consider on the failure of abstinence based programs. These three facts are impracticality, lack of efficacy and lack of evidence on other factors in sexual health. When looking at the impracticality, research shows that Americans have a median age of marriage of around 26 to 30 years old. Comparing the median marriage age with the age when Americans first have sex (around 18) proves the impracticality of abstinence only programs.
Secondly, research from Cochrane and Mathematica "found that abstinence programs had no effect on sexual abstinence for youth." Although a number of abstinence programs had been successful in reducing sexual activity, "there's no evidence to support that these abstinence-based programs influence other important metrics: the number of sexual partners an adolescent might have, the use of contraception, the chance of contracting a sexually transmitted infection or even becoming pregnant." It is also worth mentioning that in 2017, a review of over 200 programs "found that comprehensive sex education improves knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and outcomes. Abstinence-only programs did not."
The current administration has eliminated funding for a large amount of sex education related programs. This conservative action is not surprising since the appointment of Valerie Huber as chief of staff for the Department of Health and Human Services. Political motivations for sex education curriculum is irresponsible for the health of youth. Carroll eloquently conveys this message by stating "Whether for ethical reasons, for evidence-based reasons or for practical ones, continuing to demand that adolescents be taught solely abstinence-until-marriage seems like an ideologically driven mission that will fail to accomplish its goals."
If you are interested in a sex ed curriculum that is based on evidence, please check out our page at More Than Sex-Ed!