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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,933
September 6, 2018
Condoms in High School Vs. Abstinence
By Mike McManus

Montgomery County, MD, where I live, is now offering condoms in four high schools, and considering expanding to 20+ other high schools.

This is a big mistake. What should be promoted to high school students is sexual abstinence - not sexual activity with condoms.

Montgomery officials say they want to reverse a spike in gonorrhea and chlamydia, which health officials call "a public health crisis." County officials of the state's largest jurisdiction noted that nearly half of high school students nationally reported in 2017 were not using a condom the last time they had sex. In Maryland, 43% of students reported not using a condom - up from 39% two years earlier.

Chlamydia cases countywide climbed 17.5% from 2016 to 2017 and gonorrhea, by 29%, according to health officials. In Montgomery County, more than 900 people who developed chlamydia last year were ages 15-19.

However, there is good news that Montgomery County officials seem unaware of.

Nationally, among 15-17 year olds, 66% of boys and 70% of girls have never had sexual intercourse! Between 1991 and 2015 the percentage of high schoolers who never engaged in sexual intercourse increased by 28%, according to Ascend, formerly known as the National Abstinence Education Association.

And the percentage of black teens who have not had sex increased a stunning 178%, and the increase of black males was a remarkable 246% between 1991 and 2015.

And there are dramatic results of this chastity.

Since 1991, teen birth rates have plunged 64%. Also, teen abortion rates are at their lowest point since abortion was legalized. It is 66% lower than at its peak.

More sexually active high schoolers are using long-acting reversible contraception (LAEC), but are failing to use a condom as well.

What's remarkable, most adolescents support reserving sex for marriage, both in general and for themselves. About half of 18 and 19 year olds who have had sex wish they had waited longer before becoming sexually active.

I am proud to say that not only was I chaste through high school - but also for four years at Duke University. That chastity has paid a dividend. I am now in my 52nd year of marriage.

More than 8 of 10 American parents regardless of race or political party, support Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) education with enthusiasm. They want their children to wait for marriage before having sex.

That may sound hopelessly outdated, but as noted above in this column - chastity is supported by high school teenagers, two-thirds or more of whom are still virgins!

Therefore, why is Montgomery County - and many other places in the state such as Baltimore and on Maryland's Eastern Shore - handing out condoms in high schools?

"As stewards of children, we have a moral obligation to create an environment that meets not only their educational but their physical and medical needs as well," wrote school board member Jill Ortman-Fouse and County Council member George Leventhal.

They claim there is research that offering condoms along with educational efforts leads to a decrease in sexual activity. However, they did not cite specific evidence, and I don't believe them.

Why not promote chastity, which two-thirds of high schoolers are already practicing? Making condoms available will only increase sexual activity. Encouraging sexual abstinence is how to serve what Dr. Ortman-Fouse calls "a moral obligation to create an environment that meets not only their educational needs but their physical and medical needs as well."

Handing out condoms will have the exact opposite impact.

Delaying sex until a lifelong monogamous commitment (marriage) with an uninfected partner is the only way to avoid all the possible negative physical consequences of sex. In fact, delaying sex appears to aid in the permanence of future marriage, according to Ascend.

Waiting to have children until marriage increases the likelihood of their flourishing. Waiting to have children until marriage decreases the possibility that both parents and children will live in poverty.

Unfortunately, current federal sex education policy is almost completely devoted to sexual risk reduction rather than the skills to help young people avoid sexual risk.

Since 2007, only 10% of federal sex education funding has been devoted to Sexual Risk Avoidance education.

I close this column with two key questions for parents and religious leaders:

Will you sit silently by, or will you speak up and demand Sexual Risk Avoidance education that promote chastity?

And will you oppose handing out condoms to high schoolers?

If not, why not?

Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.

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