2015 marks 20 years since Texas has required an abstinence-until-marriage approach to sex education in our public schools, teaching our teens to just say no to sex. For these 20 years Texas has consistently ranked in the top 10 states for teen sexual activity (CDC, 1993 - 2014), the top 5 states for highest teen pregnancy rate (Kost, 2013), the highest rate in the nation for repeat teen pregnancies (CDC 2013), and among the bottom 5 states for condom use by sexually active teens (CDC, 1993 - 2014). In short, despite all the efforts of abstinence-until-marriage sex education, Texas has some of the most dangerous sexual behavior among teens in the entire nation.
While teen pregnancy rates have dropped over the last 25 years (Kost, 2013), the rate of decrease that has been seen in Texas is among the worst in the nation, with 39 states having greater rates of improvement than Texas (NCPTUP, 2013). In fact, when states are compared by the level of dedication to abstinence in their laws and policies, states with strong abstinence-until-marriage laws have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and the lowest levels of improvements in teen pregnancy rates over the past 25 years (Stanger-Hall 2011).
In a study on the causes of this declining rate of teen pregnancies in the United States, the findings show that â14% of the change observed among 15- to 19-year-olds was attributable to a decrease in the percentage of sexually active young women and that 86% was attributable to changes in contraceptive method useâ (Santelli, 2007). In fact, when teen sexual activity rates (CDC, 1993 - 2014) are compared with teen pregnancy rates (Kost, 2013), pregnancy rates go down while teen sexual activity rates remain unchanged, showing that our abstinence-until-marriage sex education cannot be responsible for any reductions in the teen pregnancy rate in Texas.
Peer-reviewed studies over the past decade have found that abstinence-plus sex education programs show significant decreases in sexual activity and pregnancy rates among teens (Kirby, 2007). Not one peer-reviewed study of abstinence-until-marriage sex education, such as those prescribed by Texas law, has shown a reduction in teen pregnancy rates or teen sexual activity rates (Kirby, 2007). Many abstinence-until-marriage advocates list studies that show the positive effects of abstinence sex education, but all studies with positive results are actually studies of abstinence-plus sex education, that is, programs that emphasize abstinence but also provide medically accurate information on human sexuality and contraception â which is exactly what the sex education reform bills proposed this session would allow.
Texas actually conducted a study of our own abstinence-until-marriage programs in 2004, performed by Texas A&M University. This study found âthe number of adolescents who had had sexual intercourse did not change or increased after they had received abstinence only sex education.â Looking at the numbers, the increase is dramatic. After going through the abstinence-until-marriage course, there was a 20% increase among girls and 62% increase among boys having engaged in sexual activity (Hopkins, 2005). This is the opposite of what the programs claim to be accomplishing.