A new study from Texas A&M researchers on abstinence-only programs in Texas concludes that they have had no effect on teen sexual activity for those enrolled in the programs:
The first evaluation of programs used throughout the state has found that students in almost all high school grades were more sexually active after abstinence education. Researchers don’t believe the programs encouraged teenagers to have sex, only that the abstinence messages did not interfere with the usual trends among adolescents growing up.
“We didn’t find what many would like for us to find,” said researcher Buzz Pruitt of Texas A&M University. He and his colleagues discussed their data this week with state health authorities in Austin, who sponsored the research…
Among the findings in the Texas study: About 23 percent of the ninth-grade girls in the study already had sexual intercourse before they received any abstinence education, a figure below the national average. After taking an abstinence course, the number among those same girls rose to 28 percent, a level closer to that of their peers across the state.
Among ninth-grade boys, the percentage who reported sexual intercourse before and after abstinence education remained relatively unchanged. In 10th grade, however, the percentage of boys who had ever had sexual intercourse jumped from 24 percent to 39 percent after participating in an abstinence program.
This is only the latest of multiple studies that have shown that abstinence-only programs, which are forbidden to mention condoms at all except to discuss failure rates, have little or no effect on whether students have sex or not. At best, abstinence only programs have been shown to delay having sex for a short time. But studies have also shown that those who go through such programs are much less likely to use birth control, especially condoms, when they do start having sex and that actually leads to an increase in teen pregnancy and STDs.
So Cons may freak out when the Supreme Court mentions a judicial decision from other countries, but surely no rational person could be against looking at the policies of other countries who are far more successful than the US in a given area. Sex education is one such area, where the US has a problem with teen pregnancy that far exceeds that of Europe, especially Northern Europe and Scandinavia. Our rates of teen pregnancy and STDs are twice as high as any of those nations, and 7 times higher than the best of them, the Netherlands. And what they do differently than us is mandate comprehensive sex education, including explicit instruction on use of birth control, provide free and anonymous birth control in every school, and free and anonymous examinations for pregnancy and STDs. As a result, their teen pregnancy problem is a fraction of ours, and so are the rates of STDs and abortion (that at least should make the religious right happy, shouldn’t it?).
And, ironically, their rates of sexual activity are no higher than ours, and sometimes significantly lower. The average age at which a teenager first has intercourse in the US is 15.8; in the Netherlands it is 17.7. And Dutch teenagers also have fewer sexual partners on average than American teenagers, despite the fact that the Netherlands has a lower age of consent than most US states and is viewed as having a more “decadent” culture where sexuality is open. The puritan approach to sex education simply does not work and it never will.