Despite the fact that 93% of US parents want their high school aged children educated about both abstinence and contraception, an institutional shift towards abstinence-only education is growing dangerously apparent. In 31 districts across Texas, “Worth the Wait”Ñdeveloped by obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Patricia SulakÑis drawing nationwide attention as an “abstinence-only” sex education program that has the support of some doctors, according to a recent article in Time. Supporters of comprehensive sex education caution that programs that do not encompass both abstinence and birth control have not been found to be effective at delaying sexual activity, reducing the number of sexual partners, or reducing the rate of unintended pregnancy. While a recent CDC report indicates a decline in the rate of sexual intercourse among high school teens, unprotected oral and anal sex remain great concerns as teens are often unaware that these practices also put them at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). “Clearly, when students are denied a thorough and balanced education about what constitutes sex and how STIs are truly passed along, families suffer. No one benefits from ignorance,” said Dr. Beth Jordan, medical director of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
“Worth the Wait” differs from typical abstinence-only programs. Instead of focusing on marriage promotion, Sulak concentrates on showing students graphic slides, displaying the impacts of sexually transmitted infections on the genitals. If students communicate any intention not to abstain, they are directed to outside medical professionals to discuss contraception.
Every prominent medical and health organization in the US, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Medicine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Nurses Association, the Institute of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, agrees that educating adolescents about proper condom use is imperative to reducing the risk of infection by HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. According to a former Surgeon General David Satcher’s June 2001 report entitled The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior, adolescents comprise one-third of the 12 million Americans infected every year with STIs.