National Partnership for Women & Families

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Report Highlights 'Failures' of Colo. Abstinence-Only Programs

Report Highlights 'Failures' of Colo. Abstinence-Only Programs

Sept. 13, 2010 — Colorado policymakers need to give more attention to comprehensive sex education programs, according to a report released last week that details the "failures" of the state's abstinence-only sex education programs, the Denver Daily News reports.

The report -- authored by the Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States -- states that abstinence-only programs "promote marriage, rely on messages of fear and shame, and present biased information about gender, sexual orientation, and pregnancy options in a way that is harmful and exclusive to many youth." The report also claims that abstinence-only programs in Colorado have close ties with "far-right organizations," such as the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family.

Jen Heitel Yakush, director of policy at SIECUS, said that providers of abstinence-only curricula "have shown that they're willing to adapt in order to destabilize progress toward comprehensive sexuality education." She added that the state's youth "deserve information and education, and this report shows how the state can combat the fear and shame-based messages that the abstinence-only-until-marriage industry promotes."

Although Colorado has made some progress in adopting more comprehensive sex education policies, the authors of the report argue that the state can do more. Lisa Olcese, executive director of HCYA, said, "Real sex ed includes messages about abstinence as one of many ways to avoid pregnancy and infection without imposing shame and judgment." She added, "This way, youth and their families can make informed decisions that are consistent with their own values."

Chad Hills, Focus on the Family's policy analyst for sexual health and abstinence education, said that comprehensive sex education programs that teach contraception and distribute condoms may encourage teenagers to consider becoming sexually active, and that such programs have not lowered the teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. The Daily News reports that the U.S. pregnancy rate among teens ages 15 to 19 is 72 pregnancies per 1,000 girls (Marcus, Denver Daily News, 9/10).