Abstinence education does not reduce teenage abortion rates

Teenage abortion rates

Teenage abortion rates are high worldwide. Unfortunately, the problem is exceptionally topical not only for developing countries with problems in healthcare education initiatives, but also for developed countries with an advanced system of healthcare prevention. In some states, the approach of abstinence education has been adopted to reduce abortion rates and prevent involvement in unprotected sexual intercourses among the underaged. However, this system did not prove any effectiveness, with abortion rates remaining alarmingly high, which suggests the need to search for new approaches to abortion rates’ reduction through better sexual education.

At the first glance, a decision to introduce abstinence education was reasonable; following the example of the USA, one of the world’s leaders in teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, this approach had to reduce teenagers’ involvement in sexual intercourses. However, empirical analysis of data shows that the US investments into abstinence education have mostly been unsuccessful; for instance, Stanger-Hall and Hall (2011) proved in their analysis that states in which abstinence education has been pursued for over a decade thus far enjoy even higher rates of STDs and teen pregnancies than other states. Chin et al. (2011) also conducted a systematic review of evidence and showed that only targeted risk reduction educational interventions have the power to reduce teenage pregnancy and abortion rates, while empirical evidence on the positive effect of abstinence education is scarce or missing. This evidence thus suggests the need to drop abstinence education and look for more efficient ways of curbing the public health issues of teenage pregnancy, abortion, and its negative health consequences.

One of the reasons for which abstinence education does not work as a prevention tool is that it does not take into account teenager psychology and does not provide any data on responsible, safe sexual behavior. While promotion abstinence, such educational programs simply adopt an assumption that teenagers do not have sex, which is deeply wrong. Those who still have sexual relationships despite the intense abstinence education received at school should be taught protective measures, psychological issues of first sexual relationships, and other aspects of responsible sexual lives that may save them from acquiring a STD or becoming pregnant. Thus, it is imperative to substitute abstinence programs with well-thought sexual education courses for teens to know how to behave, which protective devices and medications to use safely for their health, and how to deal with first sexual challenges emerging in their lives (Trenholm, Devaney, Fortson, Clark, Quay, & Wheeler, 2008).

As one can see based on the presented evidence, the majority of unwilling teenage pregnancies occurs because of teens’ ignorance of fundamentals of safe sexual behavior, which is the direct outcome of abstinence-only education. Hence, the key to prevention of teenage abortions is in adequate addressing of teens’ need for knowledge about sexual precautions instead of living with an assumption that teenagers do not have sex. In case the governmental policies’ and educational initiatives’ focus changes, the governments may expect a sizeable reduction of teenage pregnancies and abortions in response to informative, wise education on responsible sexual conduct.

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References

Chin, H. B., Sipe, T. A., Elder, R., Mercer, S. L., Chattopadhyay, S. K., … & Kirby, D. (2012). The effectiveness of group-based comprehensive risk-reduction and abstinence education interventions to prevent or reduce the risk of adolescent pregnancy, human immunodeficiency virus, and sexually transmitted infections: two systematic reviews for the guide to community preventive services. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 42(3), 272-294.

Stanger-Hall, K. F., & Hall, D. W. (2011). Abstinence-only education and teen pregnancy rates: why we need comprehensive sex education in the US. PLoS One, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0024658.

Trenholm, C., Devaney, B., Fortson, K., Clark, M., Quay, L., & Wheeler, J. (2008). Impacts of abstinence education on teen sexual activity, risk of pregnancy, and risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27(2), 255-276.

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