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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 12/30/2009

Obama's view of sex education broader than Bush's

By Valerie Strauss

Even as proponents of abstinence- only sex education continue to hope that the health care reform package will fund their programs, President Obama is supporting a broader approach to the subject.

Sarah Kliff at Newsweek reports that funding for sex education in a 146-page appropriations bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies does not require an abstinence-only approach as did the Bush administration.

Under president Bush, $1.8 billion was appropriated for abstinence-only sex education.

In the Obama-backed bill that Kliff writes about, there is no mention of abstinence-only. For that matter, it doesn’t mention “comprehensive” sex education either, a term used to include the teaching of contraceptives and other issues.

A panel of independent experts recently concluded that sex ed programs that are along the comprehensive lines--encouraging teens to delay sexual activity while teaching them about contraception--can reduce risky behavior, increase condom use and lower the chances of getting the AIDS virus and other infections.

But there wasn’t enough evidence to know the effectiveness of programs that focus on encouraging teens to remain sexually abstinent until marriage.

The main thrust of the Obama-backed bill is to provide funding for programs that can prove they work.

Now that’s a novel approach to education, isn’t it?

What do you think of the Obama administration’s view of sex education? Should abstinence-only programs continue to be supported?

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By Valerie Strauss  | December 30, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Tags:  sex education  
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I think yes, abstinence-only education should be part of any sex education program. And I think the bad effects of abortions should be included in any discussion of abortions, so that our young women may understand the many ramifications of bearing children when they are almost still children themselves. Give them a full education about all parts of their future lives, so that they may be equipped for a future which is enriching and satisfying.

Posted by: MaggieB1 | December 30, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Also, I think that Kathleen Sibelius's program while she was governor had an amazing reduction of teenage pregnancies.

Posted by: MaggieB1 | December 30, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

The problem with government-funded/created sex ed. programs is their inability to confront the morality and ethics of sexual behavior. As a teacher I've witnessed these programs, and the presenters rarely confront the core issues of why people choose, or choose not to engage in sexual behavior. Not once have I heard these presenters confront young people with, e.g., "are you doing it because you want to create children, or because it feels good?" Government-funded programs do not ask these questions because they would take them down moral/ethical roads, yet these are the precise questions you must ask young people to help them make better decisions.

I don't think I'm arguing for 'abstinence only', but 'abstinence primarily' definitely. 'Comprehensive' sex-ed programs don't confront well the chain of events that leads to a 'reproductive choice.' You chose to have sex with someone with whom you were not married, may not have an intention of having a child, AND you had sex without any contraception. Of course this isn't the only path that leads to a 'reproductive choice,' but it happens. I don't see these 'comprehensive' programs combatting this, or similar scenarios.

Posted by: pdfordiii | December 30, 2009 8:24 PM | Report abuse

I recently attended my 5 year high school reunion, and I received comprehensive, science based sex ed as a student. I am fully convinced that young adults are far better prepared to negotiate sexual situations when they receive unbiased information on reproductive health, contraception, and STIs.

Plus anyone who has actually received comprehensive sex ed can tell you the emphasis always remains that abstinence is the only 100% effective way to prevent pregnancy and STIs.

I was surprised by the panel conclusion that found insufficient evidence to assess the efficacy of ab-only programs. Many organizations and researchers over the past few years have demonstrated repeatedly that ab-only til marriage education does not delay sexual initiation and increases the likelihood that teenagers will engage in unprotected sex. Some examples of such research:

Posted by: Donutango | December 31, 2009 7:12 AM | Report abuse

A good start would be for Obama to get rid of that pervert, Kevin Jennings, he hypocritically installed as the "Safe Schools" Czar.

Posted by: jpost1 | December 31, 2009 7:28 AM | Report abuse

Thank God we have a president who directs tax dollars based on the way things are, instead of the way things ought to be. Teen-agers have always had sex. There's never been a time when they didn't. We should definitely teach kids the benefits of abstinence, but we have to face the reality that they also need information about birth control and keeping safe from STDs.

Posted by: jonmiller1 | December 31, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

pdfordiii, re: "Not once have I heard these presenters confront young people with, e.g., "are you doing it because you want to create children, or because it feels good?"--isn't this a little disingenuous? Most adults do not engage in sex because they want to create children, after all.

Posted by: subrosa77 | December 31, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I'm a little late in joining this conversation. MaggieB1, you indicated that you think "abstinence-only education should be part of any sex education program." I'm a little confused: by definition abstinence-only means that other forms of contraception are not taught at all, i.e it can't be a 'part' of a program. Whereas abstinence can be a part of a comprehensive sex-ed program -- abstinence is taught along with contraception. Generally the message is "Don't have sex until you are ready (emotionally, physically, mentally) and if you do, use protection."

Care to elaborate?

Posted by: MaineMan1 | December 31, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I agree with what pdfordiii said about guiding students through the chioce of whether to engage in sexual behavior or not. Putting up a brick wall of negativity does not work and can actually backfire. After working in the public schools, do you even know how many kids we hear rumors about in terms of behavior or even pregnancy before the parents are clued in? That's becuase the kids are scared and have no idea what the next step is. They can tell you that the sperm met the egg, but have no idea what prenatal care means.
What I suggest is a day of the cirriculum be dedicated to proper contraception use and what to do if it fails. If the parents don't want their kids to participate, then they can opt them out for that day. Then, it is on the PARENTS to suppliment the information themselves, which I can respect because at least then they are involved. Just because it is government offered does not mean you have to take it.

Posted by: zeptattoo | December 31, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Hey, here's an idea: let's look at what other western industrialized countries are doing. Particularly other countries that have significantly LOWER rates of teen pregnancy, teen abortion, and STDs that we Americans have (actually, virtually all western industrialized countries fill that bill -- America's stats are in the basement).

I don't think you'll find much "abstinence only" education in those other countries.

Posted by: web_user | December 31, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I agree with JonMiller - the government should only fund programs that are proven to be effective. Kids are more savvy these days - we need to reach them with information that lets them understand the consequences of unsafe sex. Abstinence only programs are like an ostrich putting its head in the sand - they ignore reality or try to pretend it doesn't exist.

Web_user has a point, too...what are the other western countries doing? Too often, America ignores what has been proven to be effective in other countries. I also hope we will stop imposing "abstinence only" training on the third world countries.

Posted by: Whazzis | December 31, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Funding for abstinence-only sex education by Congress would be stupid because that's oppression against girls and boys while not providing information about contraception and the importance of condoms. Comprehensive sex education is a must in decreasing pregnancy by girls and it encourages girls and boys to make decisions on their own regarding their behavior. President Obama is doing the correct thing in supporting funding for comprehensive sex education and not the nonsense of abstinence-only sex education.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | December 31, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

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