Teaching Fear

C. Abstinence-Only Curricula and State Law

The issue of accuracy and thoroughness also poses a legal problem for abstinence-only programs. Statutes in several states require that sex education and HIV/AIDS education programs provide full and accurate information about sexuality, reproduction, contraception and disease prevention. For example, Oregon law includes the following:

[A]bstinence shall not be taught to the exclusion of other material and instruction on contraceptive and disease reduction measures.
Or. Rev. Stat. § 336.455(1)(c)

Florida has a similar provision:
In order that children make informed and constructive decisions about their lives, complete and accurate comprehensive health education shall be made available to all young people.
Fla. Stat. § 233.067(c)(9)

The abstinence-only programs, by definition, censor out the very types of information required in these statutes. Their authors have censored information about the various methods of birth control, the ways to lower the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and all discussion of how teens who are sexually active can practice responsible sexual behavior. Even in those states that do not explicitly require certain information to be included in sexuality education, students (and approximately 55 percent of students between 15-19 are sexually active according to current data) are being deprived of vital, life-saving information when sexuality education is censored by the use of an abstinence-only program.
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