The article first presents a brief history of the rise of abstinence-only programs that were first authorized under the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) in 1981. The article also describes post-1996 Title V funding and the requirements of the “eight-point definition” that teachers had to adopt when teaching sex education if their state received funding.
The article also talks about the increased criticisms that researchers and leading medical professional organizations expressed towards abstinence-only programs in the early 2000’s. These criticisms were greatly supported by the results from a evaluative research study* mandated by the Congress and conducted by Mathematica Policy Research. The study found no statistically significant beneficial impact on young people’s sexual behaviors after they attended abstinence-only sex education programs.
Recently, sex education has started to veer away from abstinence-only education. In 2007, Congress rejected the Bush administration’s recommendation to increase funding for abstinence-only education programs and President Obama started his presidency in favor of “comprehensive sex education that teaches both abstinence and safe sex methods.” Advocates for comprehensive approaches are looking towards the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act that will authorize at least $50 million annually for 5 years to support state programs that operate under an eight-point definition of “responsible education” and have flexibility in terms of curriculum development. Lastly, the article also examines the the terms, “medical accuracy” in regards to sex education.
Citation: Boonstra, H. D. (2009). Advocates Call for a New Approach After the Era of ‘Abstinence-Only’ Sex Education. Guttmacher Policy Review, 12(1).
* Trenholm, C., Devaney, B., Fortson, K., Quay, L., Wheeler, J., & Clark, M. (2007). Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs. Mathematica Policy Research Inc.