Abstinence-only is not the answer

Story by Haley Zblewski

On Sept. 30, state Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) introduced a bill that would overturn the Healthy Young Act, Wisconsin’s current law on sex education.

Under the Healthy Young Act, signed in to Wisconsin law on Feb. 24, 2010, school districts are allowed to choose whether or not to offer sex education classes to its students. If they choose to offer sex education classes, school districts are required to also teach about effective birth control methods and sexually transmitted infections.

Lazich’s bill would reform Wisconsin sex education in several ways, the main goal being to teach students abstinence is the only reliable method to avoid pregnancy and STIs.

Under Lazich’s proposed bill, school districts would no longer be required to teach about “the health benefits, side effects and proper use of contraceptives and barrier methods approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration to prevent pregnancy and barrier methods approved by the FDA to prevent sexually transmitted infections,” according to an email Lazich sent to Wisconsin lawmakers.

That’s right. Wisconsin students would be forced into abstinence-only sex education with all talk of condoms and other birth control methods erased.

The Healthy Young Act was written as a response to high and increasing rates of both teen pregnancy and teenagers developing sexually transmitted infections.

Former Gov. Doyle said in a Feb. 24, 2010, article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the Healthy Young Act, “It is very important in my mind that the teaching be done consistent with these standards (in the new law) — that it be based on accurate information, that it be medically correct, that it be age appropriate and that we not have political ideology make the decision on what is taught to our young people, but rather scientific facts and good, basic knowledge.”

But with Lazich’s bill we are seeing political ideology taking over to present information to young minds that is not totally medically accurate.

Yes, abstinence is of course effective at preventing STIs and pregnancy, but it is not the only effective method.

If this logic were true, it would mean every sexually active person reading this has at one point in their life developed an STI; that every sexually active young woman reading this has become pregnant at some point in her life.

But as we know, latex condoms are effective barriers against most STIs, and there are several contraceptive methods that prevent pregnancy. But, if this bill were to be enacted into law, some of our future students might not know this.

Yes, it is good and practical to teach students that abstaining from sex is an effective method of preventing STIs, but abstinence should be taught along with other methods. Some students will choose to wait to have sex until marriage, but not all of them will. Some students may only have one sexual partner in their life, but most of them won’t. Like it or not, once they hit puberty, people are going to want to have sex.

This is why time and time again abstinence-only programs have been proven to not work.

Several studies conducted by Congress and  organizations such as the American Foundation for AIDS Research have found that abstinence-only sex education doesn’t keep teenagers from having sex.  One review that the American Foundation for AIDS Research reported looked at 28 different sex education programs, three of which were abstinence-only programs. Of those three, none of them delayed high school students having sex, nor did they reduce the number of sexual partners these students had or the frequency they had sex.

Since abstinence-only programs are ineffective when it comes to keeping kids from having sex before marriage, why do politicians like Lazich think it is the best way to educate kids about sex?

It’s a matter of creating a perfect, right-wing Wisconsin. ‘People should not have sex until they are married, abstinence is the only way to not get an STI and Planned Parenthood is the devil.’ All of those things will be taught to students under Lazich’s proposed bill.

Sex education exists to allow young students to be able to make healthy decisions when it comes to sex, while in high school and later on in their lives.

In the end, Lazich’s political ideology will leave teenagers with jaded ideology rather than practical and accurate information on how to keep themselves healthy.




Haley Zblewski is a senior print journalism major and Chief Copy Editor at The Spectator.