Pediatricians Denounce Abstinence-Only Education
July 6, 2005
The American Academy of Pediatricians has revised its 1998 teen pregnancy policy to omit the statement that "abstinence counseling is an important role for all pediatricians." The new AAP policy states that although doctors should counsel adolescents to postpone sexual activity, they should also ensure that all teens -- not just those who are sexually active -- have access to birth control, including emergency contraception.
"Even though there is great enthusiasm in some circles for abstinence-only interventions, the evidence does not support abstinence-only interventions as the best way to keep young people from unintended pregnancy," said Dr. Jonathan Klein, chairperson of the AAP committee that wrote the new policy.
Teaching abstinence but not birth control makes it more likely that youths, once sexually active, will engage in risky behaviors and contract STDs, said Dr. S. Paige Hertweck, a pediatric obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Louisville who provided advice for the report.
Citing 2003 government data, AAP's report said that over 45 percent of high school girls and 48 percent of boys have had sexual intercourse. About 900,000 U.S. teens get pregnant each year, and teen birth rates are higher in the United States than in other comparable industrialized countries. That could reflect greater contraceptive access in other countries, said the report.
President Bush favors abstinence-only sex education. Counseling abstinence-only, preferably until marriage, is the best message because it is clear and consistent, said Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While sexually active youths should have contraceptive access, making it available to teens who are not sends a contradictory message, said Horn.
The revised policy, "Adolescent Pregnancy: Current Trends and Issues," was published in the journal Pediatrics (2005;116(1):281-286).
07.05.05; Lindsey Tanner