A recent study reports that more teens are having sex than ever before and and that this is evidence that abstenince education is not working. However, I interpret the data differently. (1)Our nation is reaping the consequences of the sexual revolution. Now, it has become not only socially acceptable to have pre-marital sex, but it is expected. Some would suggest giving up and simply instituting a risk management strategy.
Despite this most recent data, recent CDC data shows that up to 2004, the teenage pregnancy rate continues to decrease and is now 1/2 the rate it was in 1994. (2) CDC data also show that in 2005 “The birth rate for teenagers declined 2 percent in 2005, falling to 40.4 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years, a 35-percent drop compared with the most recent peak in 1991 (61.8), and the lowest ever recorded in the 65 years for which a consistent series of rates is available” (3) However, the same report also shows that children born to unmarried women as a whole hit record levels and increased 4 percent overall. (4) So, it seems clear that sex, pregancy, and birth by unmarried women is becoming more and more common for all age groups. Yet, despite this, the rate of teenage pregnacy and and birth is down.
Now my point is that if we were passing out condoms in schools, those against abstenince education would be patting themselves on the back saying, “see, our way works. Teen pregnancy and birth is down.” Yet when it come to abstinence only, they measure it’s success by a different standard.
Sex outside of marriage is morally wrong and should be illegal (not criminal). We have rights in this country so long as they do not violate the rights of others. I believe and so does the LDS church that all children have the right to be born into a family with both a mother and a father. This is the ideal and not always possible, but our laws should reflect our ideals and not the least common denominator. Sex out of marriage should be illegal (not criminal) even in the age of contraception. All contraception have documented failure rates even when used as directed. Furthermore, illegitimacy is the biggest single contibutor to poverty, government dependence, drug-use and crime.
Teens and adults are both mostly ignorant about birth control. The practice of cloitus interruptus and rhythm method is widespread and obviously ineffective. But, data also show that teens using the pill, and condoms are not much more effective. The reasons teens can't be told to put their faith in birthcontrol is because they are not mature enough to use it consistently. Also, studies show that teen sexual activity is highly associated with alcohol consumption which further impairs judgement. Therefore, it would be wrong to promise a teen that if they depended on the pill or condoms they will be safe, because we would be expecting them to do something that many teens are just not deveopmentally ready to strictly follow. A law of child development states that you cannot teach a child something that they are not developmentally ready to learn.
I think a good compromise would be to teach abstinence education and then focus on the limitations of various birth control methods. Condoms only protect an individual from most STD’s in most situations but they have a high failure rate because of their documented highly erratic pattern of usage. The documented bc failure rates do not take into account the human element. Other studies looking at real-life bc failure rates are consistently and significantly higher than those published on the box.
Some of the more effective methods of bc (depot, patch, and ring) which take the human element out of the equation do not protect from STD’s at all. Therefore, these methods are likely contibuting to the lower rates of teenage pregnancy but STD’s and ectopic pregnancy are off the charts. STD's and ectopic pregnacy can be lifethreatening and in can rob women of their ability to bear children later in life. Also, my wife points out that many teens she knew actually got pregnant on purpose for various insecure and immature reasons.
Opponents of abstience education say that it is somehow dishonest to expect kids to put their trust in abstience. However, we forget that abstience education has worked for generations. The problem now is that now the social landscape is changed. Parents church and school is having a hard time competing with a oversexualized pop culture and internet. On the other hand, the data shows that it would be dishonest for us to expect kids to put their faith in condoms and other forms of birth control. So, the only honest choice we are given is to clean up our media, pop culture, internet and continue to teach abstienence and review the actual failure rates of various bc methods.