Talking Points (Abstinence Ed)
by Focus on the Family Issue Analysts
Abstinence-until-marriage education teaches that sexual intimacy should remain exclusively within a marriage relationship.
Abstinence education in the public schools may reflect moral principles but is based in secular language and concepts within a health education focus.
Every area of school health education should aim to communicate the highest health standard, and sexual abstinence remains the healthiest choice for school-age youth:
Sexual abstinence until marriage provides numerous health benefits.
Sexual activity outside of marriage causes physical, mental and emotional consequences, including the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, out-of-wedlock childbearing and depression.
Abstinence remains the only fail-proof method to avoid pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.
Abstinence programs have helped to reduce teens' high risk behaviors, including sexual activity, smoking and alcohol and drug use.
Students participating in abstinence programs are more likely to delay sex, to view abstinence more positively and to have an increased knowledge of the negative consequences of premarital sexual activity.
Abstinence has contributed to the decline in the U.S. unwed teen birthrate, which dropped 35 percent from 1991-2005 to a record low of 40.5 percent.
(Birth rate = number of births within 1,000 females.)
Teaching students how to reduce the inherent risks of sexual activity by emphasizing contraceptive usage is inconsistent with the health message of other high risk behaviors, which says:
from drug use, cigarette use, gun use and drunk driving.
Children need directive education – education that points them to a specific outcome. If sexual education is taught in a condom-plus-abstinence format, the message is mixed and nondirective. Students can be left confused as to the best health choice.
Abstinence programs teach and equip students on diverse topics that contraceptive-based education programs seldom address. These include relationship skills, STDs, HIV, refusal skills, body image issues, emotional bonding, differences between men and women, condom effectiveness, teen pregnancy and the benefits of marriage.
Abstinence education programs devote 54 percent of page content to crucial abstinence-related material, whereas contraceptive-based sex education programs devote 5 percent.
Abstinence curricula use medically accurate scientific data from medically referenced sources and government agencies.
Nationwide, fewer than 47 percent of students had ever engaged in sexual intercourse, and just one-third said they are "currently sexually active."
In contrast to contraceptive-based sex education claims, teens are capable of abstaining from sex; they just need the right motivation and support.
Promoting safe sex and condom use is not the answer:
The condom failure rate in preventing teen pregnancies is 17 percent.
"For those who choose to be sexually active, condoms may lower the risk of HPV, if used all the time and the right way. Condoms may also lower the risk of developing HPV-related diseases, such as genital warts and cervical cancer. But HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom – so condoms may not
protect against HPV. So the only sure way to prevent HPV is to avoid all sexual activity."
Condoms reduce the risk of the transmission of sexually transmitted infections; they cannot eliminate all of the risk.
While abstinence education programs have proven effective, no sex-education curriculum can match the power and influence of positive parental guidance and involvement.
Parents who discuss sexual responsibility in the home should encourage questions, communication and reflection while exemplifying their own value system.
Copyright © 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
M. Pardue, "More Evidence of the Effectiveness of Abstinence Education Programs,"
The Heritage Foundation
"The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs," Prepared for Rep. Henry A. Waxman, United States House of Representatives, Committee on Government Reform - Minority Staff, Special Investigations Division, December 2004.
National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "Teen Birth Rates in the United States, 1940-2006."
(August 21, 2008).
S. Martin, R. Rector, M. Pardue, "Comprehensive Sex Education vs. Authentic Abstinence: A Study of Competing Curricula,"
The Heritage Foundation
Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance - United States, 2005
, CDC, Vol. 55, No. SS-5, June 9, 2006. See
Kost, et al., "Estimates of Contraceptive Failure From the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth,"
, Jan. 2008, 77(1): 10-21.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Genital HPV Infection – CDC Fact Sheet."
(August 21, 2008).
Warner et. al., "Condom Use and Risk of Gonorrhea and Chlamydia: A Systematic Review of Design and Measurement Factors Assessed in Epidemiologic Studies,"
Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
Jan. 2006, (33)1: 36-51.