GOP Platform Lies About Abstinence Education’s Effectiveness

The official Republican platform — which one GOP official referred to as “the most conservative platform in modern history” — advocates for a far-right approach to women’s health, including a sweeping abortion ban without any exception for rape or incest. And it doesn’t stop there.

In addition to the platform’s stringent anti-abortion stance, it also enshrines a misguided approach to sex education that will actually lead to more unplanned pregnancies:

We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with abstinence education which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. Abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually. It is effective, science-based, and empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes and avoid risks of sexual activity. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and related services for abortion and contraception.

Touting abstinence-only education programs as “effective” and “science-based” is simply not true. In fact, abstinence education curricula often lack very basic facts about contraception, pregnancy, sexual assault, and effective barriers against sexually transmitted diseases. Some abstinence-only courses, such as the health class in California that instructs students to prevent STDs with “plenty of rest,” teach blatant misinformation.

Thanks to the lack of scientific facts in abstinence-only courses, a full 60 percent of young adults underestimate birth control’s effectiveness and are more likely to skip it because they don’t believe it will make a difference. It is no surprise, then, that the states that push abstinence-only policies have the highest rates of teen pregnancy.

Abstinence-only education is based on the specious theory that teenagers shouldn’t be taught anything about sex because they shouldn’t be having sex. But promoting abstinence hasn’t worked in religious communities — a full 80 percent of evangelicals report having sex at least once before marriage — and won’t work in schools, either. The approach fails to take into account the fact that 70 percent of teenagers are sexually active by the time they turn 19, and sitting in a health class that pushes junk science won’t dissuade them otherwise. To achieve the goals the Republican Party puts forth, schools across the country need to implement comprehensive sex education that will have honest conversations with young adults about sexuality.