Unintended consequences: teen pregnancy and abstinence campaigns

Conservative Christian groups have been on a mission for the past decade to get teenagers to make pledges to sexual abstinence. The Bush Government made foreign aid partly dependent on developing nations promoting abstinence as the way to deal with AIDS (and not allowing abortions either). The most famous are the True Love Waits and Silver Ring Thing campaigns.

While I understand the desire to teach sexual purity, I have long been concerned about the unintended consequences of these campaigns. One very real consequence is a rise in teen pregnancies in the USA – read a report here.

This is a tough issue to deal with. I am not going to try and deal with the intricacies now.

What I do want to comment on is the danger of teaching abstinence through naivete. Abstinence is one thing, but lack of understanding of sexual desire and naivete about the use of contraception and protection against STD’s is something else. It’s a really tough balance to maintain, but the empirical evidence is overwhelming – it’s not working as it is! There are MORE pregnancies and STDs, and more sexual activity, among those who have signed up to abstinence campaigns.

I am not sure what the solution is, but what we’re doing now needs to change. I still maintain that the church is very bad at dealing with pretty much every issue related to sex. We need to sort ourselves out.

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