December 5, 2005


Should schools teach abstinence only sex education?

A story published today in the Epoch Times noted a  heated debate in the Wisconsin Assembly over a bill on whether sex education classes in schools should focus more on abstinence or inform teens about contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases. The measure would require public schools to teach abstaining from sexual intercourse as "the preferred choice of behavior" for unmarried people.

State Sen. Mary Lazich (R) who sponsored the bill, told the committee that sex education in Wisconsin should devote more time to abstinence than birth control. The state Senate in September approved the abstinence education bill with all 19 Republican senators voting in favor of the measure.

Changing the way sex education should be presented comes at a time when Wisconsin ranks No. 1 in the birth rate for black teens. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 75 percent of teenage pregnancy's declined when contraceptives were readily available and became easier to use such as hormonal contraception that can be injected once every three months. However, the research also indicated that about 25 percent of the decline in pregnancies was due to abstinence or teens delaying sex.

Yet many are opposed to the message sex education in schools puts out. "As a teen I wish someone would have said, "Don't have sex, save yourself for the person you marry. That message doesn't get out enough. I think teens having sex emotionally confuses them. The high and low moods teens experience is exacerbated if they are having sex," said Marie, a mother of three teenagers in Milwaukee who was in attendance.

"I think we need to consider the message we are conveying to teens. I repeatedly told my children at a very early age that I do not believe in pre-marital sex. For me it was difficult to advocate condoms and birth control when you don't believe that teenagers are emotionally mature enough to have sex." Marie added.

Putting fuel to the flame, Lazich, Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) introduced a bill which would require school districts that teach sex education to offer even more detailed and explicit information about condom use and sexually transmitted diseases, in addition to abstinence.

Legislators would "stick our heads in the sand" by requiring schools to teach abstinence first, Grigsby said, because 60% of teens are sexually active by age 18, she told Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

"The reality is, (abstinence) is not the choice that's being made right now," Grigsby said, noting that the teen pregnancy and dropout rates in Milwaukee are among the highest in the nation. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin backs Grigsby's bill.

Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle will not take a position on the bill until it reaches his desk, said spokesman Dan Leistikow.

Experts agree that parents, not school instructors are a child's best role models of sexuality; they communicate with their children about sex and sexual values nonverbally. However, most adolescents report that they have never been given any advice about sex by either parent, even though a majority of teenagers prefer their parents and counselors as sources of sex information. While studies also indicate that both parents and their children believe that they should be talking about sexuality, parents are extremely uncomfortable doing so.