Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tenn. Pro-Abstinence Sex Education Law Sparks Debate

A pro-abstinence sex education law enacted recently in Tennessee has critics warning that it will fail to check the state's teen pregnancy rate, as supporters stand their ground on the need for barring explicit sex education.

The bill, labeled by critics as "no holding-hands bill," was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam last month. It prohibits educators from advocating "gateway sexual activity," and uses the criminal statute on sexual assault to specify acts such as groping or fondling.
A New York-based reproductive health research organization, the Guttmacher Institute, is arguing that comprehensive sex education is appropriate and necessary for young people.
"What we know ... from the research is that comprehensive sex education works," said Elizabeth Nash, the institute's state issues manager, according to The Associated Press. "It delays sexual activity, it reduces the number of partners teens have, and it increases contraceptive use. There is very little in the way of any rigorous research that shows that abstinence education has any of these long-term benefits."
Nash attributes declining pregnancy rates around the United States to a move the country's state lawmakers took about a decade ago to consider more comprehensive sex education programs that talked about abstinence as well as contraception.
Tennessee's pregnancy rate among girls 15 to 17 has also dropped from 48.2 pregnancies per 1,000 girls in 1998 to 29.6 in 2009, according to the state Commission on Children and Youth. However, the institute says, it remains one of the highest in the nation.


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