Sex Education And Abstinence In The United States

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In the United States, 61.6% of high school seniors have had sexual intercourse (Kittleson and Howard-Barr 115) and the rates of teenage pregnancy are the highest among developed nations (Weaver, Smith and Kippax 179). Despite the prevalence of teenage sexual activity, there is still wide support for abstinence only sex education programs, which teach that marriage is the only context within which it is appropriate and acceptable to have sex. These programs began in the late 1970s “as a way for conservative Christians to counter the spread of ‘comprehensive’ sex education” and have since come to receive federal funding, first from the Adolescent Family Life Act in 1981 and later from Title V, Section 510 of the Social Security Act (Greslé-Favier…show more content…
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) established certain rights for children, including health and the freedom of information. Many abstinence education programs violate these principles by providing false information, perpetuating stereotypes, and teaching moral messages rather than facts (Greslé-Favier 718). A 2004 report to Congress found that over eighty percent of abstinence programs have “false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health” including the effectiveness of contraceptives and the risks of abortion (Greslé-Favier 716), in a mission to frame abstinence as the only effective method of minimizing sexual risk. Furthermore, they promote gender stereotypes, both by presenting them as scientific fact (Greslé-Favier 716) and by framing female sexuality within terms of reproduction and male sexuality in terms of pleasure (Bay-Cheng 69). Supporters of abstinence programs argue that the rights of the child are not supreme. However, this should not disclude the child completely, but instead promote a balance between the needs of the child and other factors. Greslé-Favier investigated childism, or systematic discrimination against children, which stems from conservative beliefs that parents have high authority and children belong in the private sphere. Within the context of sex education, childism is a primary factor in programs that place the values of parents and society over the needs and rights of the child. While including discussions about the importance of personal and family values in sex education is reasonable, it is unreasonable to completely diminish the concerns of the individual. A prime example of the bias, value based approach, and violation of rights presented by abstinence education is the inclusion of religious messages. Faith based organizations have spent ten percent of the federal Title
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