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Abstinence-only sex education programs cut

Published: Sunday, September 4, 2011

Updated: Monday, September 5, 2011 09:09

It's one of the many divisive, never-ending debates our country seems to always be having: Sex education in public schools.

Almost all American students receive formal education in the classroom regarding this topic in some way or another, but the debate over how we conduct sex ed has always come down to one detail: To teach birth control, or not to teach birth control? That is the question.

Proponents of "comprehensive" sex education advocate that many teenagers are actively practicing sex whether or not they learn anything about it in the classroom, and that it's important to teach all forms of protection from unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases – particularly the importance of using a condom and how to use it.

On the other side of the debate, proponents of "abstinence-only" sex education argue that teaching about birth control sanctifies our youth from having sex before they are physically or emotionally ready for all of the consequences they may face.

They advocate for teaching only one form of birth control: not having sex at all until marriage. Not only is this the only 100% effective form of birth control and STD-prevention, but it meshes well with certain personal religious doctrines.

A government report released in September 2010 by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drawn from face-to-face interviews of almost 3,000 teenagers over a two-year period, found that while almost all students are receiving sex education in the classroom, only about two-thirds of them walk away with an understanding of birth control methods.

This is one of many studies indicating that abstinence-only educational methods simply aren't working to prevent unwanted teenage pregnancies and the transmission of STDs.

Also last year, the Federal government discontinued the funding of two abstinence-only education programs: The Adolescent Family Life (AFL) Prevention program and the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) program, for a total of $112 million a year.

That same year, two new evidenced-based sex education programs were initiated in their place: The Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) and the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) initiative, for a total of $155 million a year.

State education programs that wish to use these Federal funding programs, therefore, must teach comprehensive sex ed. The state of Florida, however, has declined these programs in order to continue their abstinence-only educational programs.

Most other states – including Colorado – are now in the process of reforming their sex education curriculums into comprehensive programs that teach birth control methods.

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