The Trump Administration Doubles Down On Abstinence-Only Sex Education

sex-education-word-cloud.jpg

The Trump administration recently released its proposed budget for 2019 and, just like last year, it seeks to ensure that sex education in the United States remains focused on abstinence. Specifically, this administration seeks to fund abstinence-only programs to the tune of $150 million. I've said it many times before, but it bears repeating: focusing sex education primarily on abstinence just doesn’t work.

If anything, these programs may be counterproductive. For instance, research has found that the U.S. states with the most abstinence-only programs actually have the highest rates of teen pregnancy [1]! What does work when it comes to sex education is a comprehensive approach—one that gives teenagers the information they truly need to know, which will enable them to establish safer and healthier sexual relationships. Research also reveals that comprehensive sex education is not only linked to lower rates of teen pregnancy [2], but also to lower rates of STI-risk behavior [3].

It's also worth noting that abstinence-until-marriage programs are unrealistic in an era when the average age of first intercourse is 15-16, whereas the average age of first marriage is almost 30. Telling teens they should wait 15 years before they start having sex just isn't a practical goal. 

This budget proposal comes on the heels of cuts to dozens of teen pregnancy prevention programs in the past year. What we're seeing is an administration that is cutting off funds to science-based programs that do work while funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into programs that don't. If we continue down this path, it isn't going to be turn out well for Americans' sexual health. 

The good news is that this is only a proposed budget and we must wait and see what Congress decides to do. Here’s to convincing our legislators that decisions about sex education should be based in science.

Want to learn more about Sex and Psychology ? Click here for previous articles or follow the blog on Facebook (facebook.com/psychologyofsex), Twitter (@JustinLehmiller), or Reddit (reddit.com/r/psychologyofsex) to receive updates. 

[1] Stanger-Hall, K.F., Hall, D.W. (2011). Abstinence-only education and teen pregnancy rates: Why we need comprehensive sex education in the U.S. PLoS ONE 6(10): e24658. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024658

[2] Kohler, P.K., Manhart, L.E., & Lafferty, W.E. (2008). Abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education and the initiation of sexual activity and teen pregnancy. Journal of Adolescent Health42, 344-351. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.08.026

[3] Stanger-Hall, K.F., Hall, D.W. (2011). Abstinence-only education and teen pregnancy rates: Why we need comprehensive sex education in the U.S. PLoS ONE 6(10): e24658. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024658

Image Source: 123RF

You Might Also Like: