Speaking Out Against Abstinence-Only

Religious leaders should speak out against abstinence-only education.

Most religious leaders and parents want to share a message of abstinence with their children and teenagers. Research shows that most adolescents are not developmentally ready for mature sexual relationships and that engaging in sexual intercourse can pose significant biological, social, and emotional risks for teens. At the same time, it is important to recognize that not all teenagers will abstain from these behaviors, and they require information to protect themselves. Almost all teenagers will need this information in adulthood. Religious Institute, The Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Adolescent Sexuality, 2002.

Abstinence-only-until-marriage education programs fail young people. Numerous studies show that such programs are ineffective in helping teens significantly delay engagement in mature sexual behaviors. Trenholm C, et al., Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs Final Report. Princeton, NJ: Mathematic Policy Research; submitted to U.S. Dept. Health & Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, 2007. Additionally, teens who have received abstinence-only education are less likely to protect themselves against unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Bruckner H, Bearman, PS. "After the promise: the STD consequences of adolescent virginity pledges," Journal of Adolescent Health, 2005, (36): 271-278. In addition to disregarding young people who have engaged in heterosexual sexual behavior, these programs exclude youth who identify as lesbian, gay, or transgender who do not have the right to legal marriage in most states.

Advocates for Youth – The Truth about Abstinence-Only Programs
How abstinence-only education excludes youth in need
How abstinence-only compares with comprehensive sexuality education