Abstinence-only sex-education is a joke. I am serious. A joke. My desk copy of the Oxford American Dictionary defines joke as “a ridiculous . . . circumstance.” Ridiculous is defined as “not worth serious consideration.” Circumstance: “one of the conditions or facts connected with an event or person or action.” Abstinence-only sex-education would not be ridiculous if it worked. The sad truth, however, is that it does not.
Consider Texas. The second largest state, in both area and population, has the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. One source suggests that the ranking is incorrect; Texas ranks third. Explanation? One cannot help but consider whether abstinence-only sex-education plays a role in these statistics. In 2009, the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, found that 94% of Texas school districts provide abstinence-only sex-education. Sadly, sexual education is ignored completely by a little over 2%.
One would be hard pressed to argue that these statistics are not related to one another. Let's be real. Sex education helps to define sexual relationships. It is common sense that we bring what we know to the table. Here, the "table" happens to be sex. What happens when the only knowledge a person brings to the "sex-table" (as I will call it) is abstinence? Let's keep in mind that this is the sex-table, not the abstinence-table. Abstinence is not an option. That person's knowledge is useless. They may have a jolly-good time at the sex-table, but the sex-table carries consequences. These consequences include, but are not limited to: sexually transmitted infections, pregnancies and HIV/AIDS. The state's teenage pregnancy rates suggest a lot of Texas teens visit the sex-table with an abstinence only education. Unfortunately, the statics tell us that many of these young women leave the sex-table with a +1.
So why continue with the abstinence only sex-education? Even Rick Perry, Texas's Governor, could not properly defend abstinence-only education during an interview in October of 2010. Some even argue that students were having more sex after abstinence only education. I'm unsure if that is clear. What is clear, though, is that Texas has a problem it must deal with: teenage pregnancy. This problem is not only impacting the lives of young people, specifically young females, but also the state budget. In 2009, teenage pregnancies cost the state of Mississippi $154.9 million dollars. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that Texas spent more than $154.9 million, given that Mississippi had the fifth highest teen pregnancy rate. This issue is about more than just young girls getting pregnant. This phenomenon is costing the state a large sum of money that could be used for other important projects. What is encouraging though is that parents in Texas will be reviewing the abstinence-only sex education policy this fall. I will keep my fingers crossed that the review will lead parents to seriously consider including an "abstinence-plus" education.
Abstinence-only sex-education is a joke. Texas is a case in point. Abstinence-only sex-education is not worth serious consideration. It fails to do that which it sets out to accomplish: prevent sex. It leads to that which it aims to prevent: teenage pregnancies.
Stay tuned: Next week I will continue exploring topics in sex-education.