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30 November 2011

Praise: University of Georgia on Sex Education

For a long time there has been a push by Republicans for abstinence-only sex education in schools.  Early results were not promising, despite the common sense that if one abstains from sexual activity one will obviously avoid sexually transmitted diseases and creating children.  So, by 2009 it seemed that most schools and most states were moving toward more effective sex education.

A notable exception has been recent legislation in Wisconsin to return to abstinence-only sex education.  Mother Jones has an extensive article on the history of sex education in Wisconsin and the current legislation.
Wisconsin has done a fairly good job of holding down teen birth rates. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the state has 47 births per 1,000 young women between the ages of 15 and 19—seventh-lowest in the country. But teen pregnancy rates in some parts of the state, like Milwaukee, are much higher. More disturbingly, the rate of sexually transmitted infections has shot up rapidly. Between 1997 and 2007, the rate of infection for four common STIs increased 53 percent among Wisconsin teens, according to the Cap Times.
The law Republicans want to repeal "was seen as an incredible public health victory in the state," says Sara Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health. "We were finally in line with medical standards around human growth and development." Under the law, schools can still teach that abstinence is the best way to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. But schools are also required to inform kids about condoms and birth control. If school districts do not want to provide sex education, the law requires them to let parents know that it's not part of the curriculum.
If Walker and the state GOP get their way, the new standards will be trashed, after just taking effect this school year. Schools would once again be able to teach abstinence-only sex ed.
Repealing the Healthy Youth Act fits into the "extreme pro-life agenda" that Walker and allies in the Statehouse have been pushing all year, Finger says. Pro-Life Wisconsin lists repealing the "sexualization of our children" as a top legislative priority for this year. "Government-funded birth control, whether provided directly or promoted educationally, encourages sexual promiscuity and with it a host of social pathologies including underage pregnancies, chemical and surgical abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases," the group argues.
This was news in early November.  Late November finds a new scientific study, Abstinence-Only Education and Teen Pregnancy Rates:  Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Education in the U.S., by Kathrin F. Stanger-Hall and David W. Hall, both professors at the University of Georgia.  Quoting from the abstract.
Using the most recent national data (2005) from all U.S. states with information on sex education laws or policies (N = 48), we show that increasing emphasis on abstinence education is positively correlated with teenage pregnancy and birth rates. This trend remains significant after accounting for socioeconomic status, teen educational attainment, ethnic composition of the teen population, and availability of Medicaid waivers for family planning services in each state. These data show clearly that abstinence-only education as a state policy is ineffective in preventing teenage pregnancy and may actually be contributing to the high teenage pregnancy rates in the U.S.
In March 2011, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Representative Barbara Lee of California, both Democrats, introduced the Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act in their respective houses.  Sadly, the bill has gone nowhere so far.

Education should be based on science and on results, not on hopeful thoughts and religious dogma.  Kudos to the University of Georgia for producing the study of the data.  Also to Mr. Lautenberg and Ms. Lee.  Mr. Walker on the other hand appears to be making every mistake he can, which may explain part of the extremes his party is going to in order to avoid his recall.


  1. You are quoting a seriously flawed article, in which the data was actually inconclusive.

    The biggest flaw in the study is the fact that no increase in pregnancy was demonstrated by the data, yet the authors claim that there is one.
    The error bars on their data graphs are so large that almost any line can be drawn through them, showing increase OR decrease in teen pregnancy rate. A good scientist would conclude that the data was inconclusive and shows no correlation whatsoever.

    A better discussion of abstinence education with better scientific studies can be found at

  2. Did you, Ms. Reitz, actually look at the study? With the exception of Nevada as an obvious outlier, does indicate that there is a positive correlation between abstinence education and increased teenage pregnancy.

    I understand from your website that you are an ardent Roman Catholic and embrace their stands on contraception. That is your right and you have every right to teach that in your church and your home. It does not make sense in today's overpopulated world for this religious and unscientific view to be part of public education.

  3. Thank you, Mr. Karia, for your kind words. You have so many websites that I will be reading for a while.


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