The relationship between abortion and sex education is a controversial one, with strong disagreements on both sides.
Many people who stand to fight against abortion also push for abstinence-only sex education, while the reverse is often true. Some contend that teaching a comprehensive sex education course encourages young people to have sex, which in turn increases unwanted pregnancies and potentially, abortions.
According to The Guttmacher Institute
, abstinence education became a popular movement around 2011.
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"Between 2006 and 2010, five states expanded requirements for comprehensive sex education. That positive movement came to a halt in 2011; since then, four states have enacted laws strengthening abstinence education and none has expanded comprehensive instruction," the institute reported in 2013. But in 2013, that began to change.
As of Jan. 1, 2015, the National Conference on State Legislatures reported
• 22 states and the District of Columbia require public schools teach sex education (20 of which mandate sex education and HIV education)
• 33 states and the District of Columbia require students receive instruction about HIV/AIDS.
• 19 states require that if provided, sex education must be medically, factually or technically accurate. State definitions of "medically accurate" vary, from requiring that the department of health review curriculum for accuracy, to mandating that curriculum be based on information from published authorities upon which medical professionals rely.
Research on whether sex education changes the number of abortions isn't widely available, although there are several studies that look at the connection between sex education and contraceptive use.
In 2014, The Guttmacher Institute reported that the rate of teen pregnancies had significantly declined in the United States since a peak in 1990. Abortion rates have also steadily declined.
But the institute reported that an examination of the number of teens having sex found that rate had remained steady during the time period, leading to the conclusion that increased contraceptive use might be to cause for some of the pregnancy decline.
Guttmacher reported that, although definitive studies are not available, some studies have shown that comprehensive sex education classes work better than abstinence-only classes.
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"Advocates often credit education programs for the positive trends. The quality and quantity of evaluation research have improved dramatically over the last decade, and there is now clear evidence that comprehensive sex education programs can change the behaviors that put young people at risk of pregnancy," reports the Guttmacher Institute.
"Such programs have been shown to delay sexual debut, reduce frequency of sex and number of partners, increase condom or contraceptive use, or reduce sexual risk-taking. By contrast, programs that exclusively promote abstinence outside of marriage have been proven ineffective at stopping or even delaying sex."
But researchers also told the institute that it's "not realistic" to think that sex education programs alone change behaviors enough to affect pregnancy rates to such a degree.
"For one thing, these interventions are modest. According to the CDC, middle school classes containing pregnancy prevention education include a median total of only three hours on the topic; high school classes are not much better, dedicating only four hours," the site said.
The CDC added that other factors come into the equation, including child-bearing norms, the AIDS epidemic, changes in medical care and access to contraceptives, and others.
With no definitive answer regarding sex education effectiveness, it will continue to be a much-debated issue.
In 2014, Congress appropriated $55 million for abstinence-only programs, but at the urging of President Barack Obama, also appropriated $185 million for more comprehensive sex education programs, says the Guttmacher Institute.
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