Archived Story

Does ‘abstinence-only’ education prevent unwanted pregnancies?

Published 5:00am Saturday, April 3, 2010

Niles Daily Star

Since lawmakers watched landmark legislation pass that would significantly change the nation’s health care system, many questions have been asked including how doctors and patients, the insured and uninsured will be affected.

Also being asked, just where will all the money pledged for reform go?

One recent report sparked some curiosity when it was reported programs promoting abstinence-only education would see a total of $250 million through the bill.

The question is whether or not such education is actually found to be effective and if so, just how affective is it in impacting the rate of unwanted pregnancies.

Some area organizations offered their opinion on the subject, including the Pregnancy Care Center, which offers methods of assistance, support and planning for expectant mothers.

“We are in favor of abstinence-only education,” said the center’s director, Bill Zebell. “We believe that’s the only true solution to stemming the tide of unwanted pregnancies.”
The center is not necessarily a program that could see a benefit from the funding.

“We try to inform people of their options,” he said. “We try to encourage clients to consider choices for life and so then we partner with them if they choose to carry their baby, to try and provide material assistance as well as education.

“We train them on what to anticipate for their pregnancy,” Zebell said. “Try to prepare them for birthing their child and how to care for their child after birth … try to build a relationship with them so they have a support network.”

Zebell said he believed studies had shown the effectiveness of abstinence-only education, focusing on abstinence as a surefire way to prevent pregnancy.

Some programs offered on the subject are done so in high school classrooms through a peer to peer style of practice, where older students talk with younger students about waiting before becoming sexually active.

“Abstinence when it’s embraced when it’s taught in its full measure and full form and is embraced by the students and encouraged by the administration – it’s borne out time and time again that it’s an effective program,” he said.

“I know that there have been some studies that have shown the effectiveness of abstinence-only training,” said Nicki Britten, epidemiologist with the Berrien County Health Department.

Still, she added, “I think that what has also been proven is that a combination of approaches also works.”

Though some may think abstinence a questionable approach, Britten raised an interesting point.

“It does seem a little bit odd that we say, ‘Well, teens are going to have sex, so let’s just show them how to do it safely,’” she said.

Compared to lessons surrounding drug use, Britten said, teens especially aren’t taught how to do drugs safely but not to do them at all.

The health department offers family planning services and Britten said “we are definitely not overbooked.”

More details from the controversial health care reform bill are expected to come into full view as the legislation goes into effect.

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