The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released some good news in its “Youth Risk Surveillance Report.” This survey, conducted every two years, also comes with a few lessons for parents, youth, and society at large.
The good news? The long-term trend of decreasing teen sexual activity continues. Compared to the 2015 survey, the number of teens reporting never having had sex increased to 60.5 percent—a gain of almost two-points.
Teen sexual abstinence prevents pregnancy and significant health risks, as well as social and emotional tolls related to sexually transmitted diseases and abortion. It is also associated with other benefits such as improved academic performance. The CDC survey found that abstinent students also fared better on a number of other risk factors. Their overall conclusion:
“Students who had no sexual contact have a much lower prevalence of most health-risk behaviors compared with students who had sexual contact.”
The lessons we can learn from the report are clear—sexual abstinence programs among teens are effective, and abstinence provides the only guarantee against adverse and even life-altering consequences. The report’s data offer an endorsement of the trend in recent years of increasing abstinence-based sex education in school.
Ironically, proponents of Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) have long ridiculed abstinence-based curricula. They claim that young people are incapable of discipline and delaying decisions that have life-long implications. These groups include Planned Parenthood, the Sexuality Education and Information Council of the United States (SEICUS), liberal academics, organizations pushing the envelope on “sexual rights,” and are often sustained by the mainstream media,
They mistakenly claim that “since everyone is doing it,” CSE is the only effective curriculum. However, the CDC’s report demonstrates otherwise.
Both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC have compiled research on the effectiveness of both abstinence and CSE programs. To be included, studies had to meet minimum accepted standards of research design and methodology. Recently, the widely-respected Institute for Research and Evaluation reviewed 60 of those studies and analyzed which approaches to sex education work best. Their findings are available at www.CSEreport.org and are starkly revealing.
The report on those 60 studies found no evidence that U.S. school-based CSE programs decrease teen pregnancies, nor do they lower the rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) when the accepted standards of effectiveness from the field of prevention research were applied. This exhaustive analysis found that the there is also no increase in teen abstinence and no increase in consistent condom use for students exposed to CSE programs. There is more frightening information in this research. Some studies found that that CSE programs are actually harmful to youth because they lead to an increase of risky sexual behaviors.
The IRE report’s conclusion: “There was far more evidence of CSE failure than success.” There has been less research into abstinence-based programs, largely because of the ideological bias against them by liberals generally and the Obama administration specifically, which—but for congressional efforts—would have completely eliminated funding for abstinence education. Even today under the current administration, there is still a glaring discrepancy in federal funding of the two approaches, with abstinence education receiving far less than CSE programs.
The U.S. House has proposed eliminating all funding for the failed CSE curricula while continuing to fund abstinence education at $30 million. The U.S. Senate has proposed increasing funding to $35 million while also increasing funding for overall sex education. How those differences will be resolved remains to be seen.
The welfare of our children must be our nation’s highest priority, and policymakers at every level must put the best interests of students first and foremost. The lessons we can learn from these report are clear—sexual abstinence programs among teens are effective, and abstinence provides the only guarantee against adverse and even life-altering consequences. These reports also offer an endorsement of the trend in recent years of increasing abstinence-based sex education in school.
With respect to sex education, the best alternative is clear: Stop supporting CSE and continue to emphasize abstinence-based programs and support efforts to continue increasing their effectiveness.
Sharon Slater is the president of Family Watch International and the author of the Stand for the Family, a book which presents key talking points, essential research, and vital information to help defend marriage and the family at the international, national and local level. She can be reached at https://familywatch.org.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.