The Texas Legislature has required that all sex education in Texas teach abstinence as the only acceptable approach to sexual activity until marriage (TLO 1995). That is if the school district teaches sex education at all. In 2009 the Texas Board of Education voted to remove entirely the requirement for health education in Texas schools, including sex education. Actual sex education curriculum is left up to each individual school district where advisory boards, appointed by local school districts, decide what sex education will be offered in local schools (TLO 1995).
There is a common perception in Texas that exclusively promoting the 'morality' of delaying sex until marriage will be effective in reducing teen sexual activity. It is also believed that even mentioning sex to teenagers is enough to get them so âhot and botheredâ that they won't be able to control themselves. This idea was demonstrated during the 83rd Texas Legislature by Texas Rep. Steve Toth (R-Woodlands). During a discussion on sex education Toth shared a story: âMy wife worked at a home for unwed moms, and one of the little kids that was born, his name is David. David came about as a result of his mom and dad, who were just 16 at the time, going to a Planned Parenthood deal where they taught them how to use contraceptives. They were not sexually active at that point. They got into the car, and they were so hot and bothered from this deal, he couldn't even get the condom on.â Besides the fact that the story is hearsay, originally sourced to some teenagers who needed to scapegoat the blame for their 'immoral' actions, this evidence is anecdotal â one story. Without wider supporting evidence, it is nothing more than an attempt at emotional manipulation.
This is an understandable fear. But this is a question that we can ask, and answer, through scientific inquiry. "Does teaching our youth the truth about sex and contraception increase their likelihood of sexual activity?" The conclusion reached by studies looking at this question: No (Kohler PK). Teaching teenagers about sex does not increase the likelihood of sexual activity. Quite the opposite. It is the most successful method of delaying sexual activity among teens available to us (Kirby 2007). A comprehensive approach to sex education, even one that emphasizes abstinence, but teaches medically accurate information about the human body, sexuality and safe sex is the only widespread effective way at reducing dangerous sexual behavior among teens. Not only does comprehensive sex education have better results, it gives our youth the ability to make well informed decisions for their lives, instead of being ruled by their hormones in ignorance.
Don't tell our brave Governor Perry, who has claimed that âabstinence works,â without being able to offer any proof, but abstinence-based sex education is just as effective at reducing sexual activity in students as not teaching sex education at all (Stanger-Hall 2011). There is no peer-reviewed, replicated research that supports the effectiveness of abstinence-based sex education, with all the evidence pointing in the opposite direction. In fact, after the largest federal push for abstinence-based sex education in 2006, teen pregnancy rates suffered their first increase in the United States in over 20 years (CDC 2008).
This is not a partisan issue with a simple, honest disagreement about how best to accomplish a common goal. This is an actual, literal failure in public policy that needs to be addressed with a sober analysis of relevant facts.