Abstinence-only doesn't work

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So teen pregnancy is up slightly after several years of decline, in 26 states including North Carolina. Isn't it time yet to give up on the tired attempt to tell teenagers that abstinence is the only way that works? Some folks are still clinging to the belief that teenagers don't need more information about contraceptives: A spokesman for the N.C. Family Policy Council told the News & Observer: "We don't believe there's any evidence that abstinence education is ineffective and needs to be replaced."

That's nice. But the evidence is clearly out there for all who want to see it.

Here's what the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, or Siecus, has said:

• More Detailed Research Once Again Shows Virginity Pledges Don’t Work

• Report Shows That Comprehensive Sexuality Education Holds the Most Promise for Preventing Teen Pregnancies, Sexually Transmitted Infections

• Study Finds that More Exposure to the Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Message Does Not Change Behavior

Here's what the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has said: "At present, there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners."

Abstinence-only education has been criticized in official statements by these fringe groups: American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the Society for Adolescent Medicine, the American College Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Public Health Association.

Most Americans, to the tune of 80 percent want comprehensive sex education in schools that emphasizes abstinence but also encourage condom and contraceptive use, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

During the General Assembly' last session, an attempt to change our state's current sex-ed guidelines failed. Let's hope legislators decide to get attuned to the needs of teenagers when they convene later this month.

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