Researchers at the University of Georgia found that states with students in public schools who receive abstinence only sex education have significantly higher rates of unplanned teenage pregnancy and birth rates than states who provide comprehensive sex education.
Data on teen pregnancy and birth rates from 48 states was studied to evaluate sex education effectiveness. The study, which has been published in the online Journal PLos ONE, provides the first large scale evidence that teen pregnancy rates are affected by the type of sex education teens receive in schools. Even when considering ethnicity, socio-economic status, education levels and Medicaid wavers, which are all factors that can influence teen pregnancy rates, the study found that the type of sex education students received and its relation to teen pregnancy rates remained at the same significant level. In fact, the study also found that the stronger abstinence only sex education is emphasized, the higher the teen pregnancy and birth rates. The study further found that states which provided comprehensive sex education which included abstinence along with contraception and condom education had significantly lower teen pregnancy and birth rates.
While we know that correlation does not prove causality, it is fair to suggest that if abstinence only sex education prevented teen pregnancy they way its supporters suggest, the correlation would be the opposite of what the study found. David Hall, second author of the study stated,” This clearly shows that prescribed abstinence only education in public schools does not lead to abstinent behavior. It may even contribute to the high teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. compared to other industrialized countries.”
Currently there are two types of federal funding are available for sexuality education. States now have the ability to choose between funding for abstinence only or comprehensive sex education for schools. This is significant as it gives legislators the ability to request funding for the type of sex education that reduces teen pregnancy the most, which according to the University of Georgia study is comprehensive sex education.