ABC: Abstinence Still Not an Effective Means of Birth Control

ABC's Jay Schadler effectively explored the unglamorous lives of teen parents in his June 23 “Primetime” special but couldn't keep from knocking abstinence programs while doing so.

Schadler noted in his report that “nearly 750,000 girls will become pregnant in America this year” and nearly all of them have had some sort of sex education in school.” Schadler continued, “But in America, there are two very different schools of thought about how to talk to teens about sex.”

Clips of a comprehensive sex-ed class taught in Massachusetts and an abstinence-based program in Texas illustrated the difference between the two approaches to sex- ed. Of the Texas approach, Shadler stated, “the irony in all of this is that Texas, heart of the abstinence movement, has the highest teen birth rate in the country and a recent national study suggests that abstinence programs may change teen beliefs but not their behavior.”

In Massachusetts, an unidentified instructor led students in a game in which they had to correctly describe how to properly use a condom. The instructor encouraged the teens to move faster, saying, “In the heat of the moment, you need to get that condom on quick, right? So let's go.”

Schadler said of this approach, “This kind of sex education presumes teens may have sexual intercourse, and nationwide, 6 out of 10 do, so the best way to protect them is to prepare them.” He failed to note that half of all teenage pregnancies in Massachusetts end in abortion. The birth rate may be less than Texas, but it doesn't mean there are less teenage pregnancies as a result of comprehensive sex-ed.

The game played in Texas, however, as noted by Schadler, teaches, “sex before marriage is a dangerous roll of the dice.” Students roll a dice and each number corresponded to a possible consequence of sex such. One student found out, “You have been notified you have herpes. You will experience painful, itchy sores, fever, flu-like symptoms and burning urination.”

Instructor Tonya Waite, who is also director of the East Texas Abstinence Program, told Schadler, “I just get so fed up with it when I hear adults saying what are you teaching abstinence education for? They're not going to do it anyway. You know, they're just a bunch of animals. You know, we just protect them the best we can. That's not protecting them. That's putting them at higher risk.”

Waite further defended abstinence-education in a companion article on ABC's website. “I think [teaching abstinence as the only 100 percent preventative measure] is more truthful. I think that we educate kids like that on tobacco, on drugs, on alcohol, on cigarettes. And I don't understand why we don't take that same concept with sex.” Schadler did not include this statement in the broadcast.

Schadler's special itself may have done more for the prevention of teen pregnancy than any school program. The teenage parents it featured, deprived of  “normal” teen experiences such as prom and high school graduation, and living with increased responsibilities had the very real notion that their childhood is over.