OverviewAbstinence-based education is a philosophical and political position with respect to education which states that sexual abstinence should be taught as the only effective method of contraception. Calling it "education" is therefore something of a misnomer, as it is really indoctrination: any information relating to other methods of contraception (such as their effectiveness) is strenuously avoided or suppressed.
 Arguments for
- "If we teach kids about sex, they'll want to do it."
- And if we don't teach them about it, this will magically turn off their hormones? This is like arguing that if we don't teach new drivers about road safety, they won't be tempted to drive dangerously.
- "If we teach kids about sex, they'll think it's okay."
- Why isn't sex okay? (To be written: morality of sex)
- Assuming we believe sex is bad, why would we be unable to teach this? If we are unable to effectively teach morality, which is a higher brain function, how can we possibly teach kids to override their sexual impulses, which come from a much older and more hard-wired part of the brain?
- "Teaching sexual abstinence as a form of contraception is just good sense – like teaching personal hygiene as a way of not getting sick."
- Teaching it as the best method arguably makes sense, yes (although this is questionable too -- see planned abstinence). Teaching it as the only method (abstinence-based education) is a different beast altogether. It is important not to confuse these two ideas – (a) the practice or choice of abstinence versus (b) abstinence indoctrination (i.e. suppression of non-abstinence contraceptive information).
- Personal hygiene is more than just "don't ever touch anything", which would be the metaphorical equivalent of abstinence.
In evaluating the effectiveness of abstinence-based "education" versus other methods (mainly the "inclusive" method, which was the default), the following factors – as measured within populations who have been either indoctrinated under the "abstinence-only" policy or else given a proper inclusive sex education course – are relevant:
- desirable effects:
- The number of students who remain abstinent until reproduction is desired
- Improvement in students' understanding of human sexuality
- undesirable effects (measured over some number of years after course completion):
- The number of unwanted pregnancies
- The number of instances of sexually-transmitted disease
By comparing the numbers for each of these figures between the two student populations (indoctrinated vs. educated), it should be possible to arrive at some objective measure of how well abstinence-based education works to achieve the goals of sex education in general.
Since we haven't yet uncovered any numbers directly correlating ABE with teen/unwanted pregnancy, let me boldly predict that the numbers will show abstinence-based education to be a farce. Simply telling students not to have sex – even if you can get them to agree that this is a good thing, and to promise solemnly that they will stay sex-free until marriage – will probably have a fairly small impact on the number of students who actually have sex without wanting to procreate. More significantly, those who do have sex anyway (this is a basic human instinct we're talking about here, one that is extremely difficult or impossible to suppress without drugs or surgery) will be much less prepared to prevent pregnancy and the spread of disease, leading to an overall increase in unwanted pregnancies and disease-spreading.
This prediction is partly borne out by studies showing that ABE and abstinence pledges have no effect on frequency of sex but do reduce the usage of contraceptives; the end results would seem inevitable.
It's difficult to believe, given how well-understood these things now are, that those favoring abstinence-based education are not well aware that this would be the result. It seems likely that their real agenda, rather than preventing unwanted pregnancies, is:
- to increase the number of children being indoctrinated by views upon which these groups have undue influence (starting with "abstinence until marriage" and proceeding to additional Christian fundamentalist doctrine such as creationism)
- to increase the number of poor and destitute, thereby:
 Further Comments
Christian groups in general seem to believe that certain things should be left "up to God" to decide, regardless of the harm which may be done by not intervening. This apparent belief contradicts the official Christian doctrine of human free will, and is probably a cover for the real agenda mentioned in the conclusions above.
 Related Pages
- A policy of abstinence-based education is a procreation-maximizing policy, as it denies the students access to knowledge of how to prevent pregnancy without either disabling the instinct to engage in intercourse or providing any kind of contraception to prevent pregnancy from occurring.
 Filed Links
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- 2009-01-07 [Talk|Index] Mississippi, A Hotbed of Abstinence Education, Now Boasts Highest Teen Pregnancy Rate In America § “...one reason [why the state's teen pregnancy rate is increasing] may be the poor quality of its sex ed programs. ...Mississippi focuses heavily on abstinence education and teachers are prohibited from demonstrating how to use contraceptives...”
- 2008-12-29 [Talk|Index] Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds § “Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.”
- 2008-12-29 [Talk|Index] Many Teens Don't Keep Virginity Pledges § “Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.”
- 2008-08-07 [Talk|Index] When It Comes To Abstinence Teens and Adults Aren't Speaking The Same Language § “Abstinence can mean different things to adolescents than to adults. That's one reason why abstinence-only programs do not have strong effects in preventing teenage sexual activity, according to new University of Washington research.”
- 2008-06-25 [Talk|Index] Abstinence-only policy is bearing fruit § “Who can argue against saying no? What parent isn't pro abstinence? But abstinence only? Anyone who thinks a teenager will never do a thing because she has been forbidden has never met a teenager. Common sense – and a 2007 study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy – tells us abstinence-only does not work. But since when does President Bush let common sense and fact trump ideology?”
- 2008-03-28 [Talk|Index] Sex Ed Can Help Prevent Teen Pregnancy § “Comprehensive sex education may help reduce teen pregnancies without increasing levels of sexual intercourse or sexually transmitted diseases.”
- 2008-03-20 [Talk|Index] Comprehensive Sex Education Might Reduce Teen Pregnancies, Study Suggests § “New research suggests that comprehensive sex education might lead to less teen pregnancy, and there are no indications that it boosts the levels of sexual intercourse or sexually transmitted diseases.”
- 2007-11-05 [Talk|Index] Emerging Answers 2007 § Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases
- 2007-04 [Talk|Index] Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs § “Based on follow-up data collected from youth four to six years after study enrollment, the report presents the estimated program impacts on youth behavior, including sexual abstinence, risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and other related outcomes.”
- 2007-04-13 [Talk|Index] Citing New Study Showing that Federally Funded Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs Don’t Work, ACLU Calls on Congress to Stop Funding § “Findings indicate that youth in the program group were no more likely than control group youth to have abstained from sex and, among those who reported having had sex, they had similar numbers of sexual partners and had initiated sex at the same mean age.”
- None dare call it education: what if other "dangerous" subjects were taught using the "abstinence-based" philosophy?