June 8, 2004
The national debate over the best way to reduce the spread of STDs and teen pregnancy continues, as President Bush wants to increase federal funding for abstinence education programs. To date, there is minimal evidence indicating that abstinence-only programs, which emphasize sex only within marriage and do not discuss contraception, work to delay or reduce teen pregnancy, according to a National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy-sponsored report. Abstinence-based education, which includes discussion of contraceptives, has been shown to be effective.
In 1998, Utah began an Abstinence Education Program to draw on the federal money, and this year it received $294,318 from the U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau. The abstinence-only approach, sanction by federal and state policy, is the standard for eight state programs receiving money.
Federal guidelines for abstinence require teaching the health, psychological and social benefits of abstaining from sex; that abstinence until marriage is the standard for all school-age children, and that sexual activity outside of marriage is harmful; that abstinence is the only way to prevent STDs and out-of-wedlock pregnancies, which have harmful consequences; and that the expected standard of human sexual activity is a faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage. Students are taught how to reject sexual advances, that alcohol or drugs could make them more vulnerable to sexual advances, and the importance of achieving self-sufficiency before becoming sexually active.
Utah law requires that health classes offered in grades 8-12 stress the importance of abstinence-only until marriage and fidelity after marriage as methods for preventing certain communicable diseases, as well as life skills that encourage abstinence and fidelity.
Utah law prohibits health classes from discussing intricacies of intercourse, erotic behavior or sexual stimulation; advocating or encouraging use of contraceptives; advocating homosexuality; and advocating sexual activity outside of marriage.