Watch CBS News

Abstinence-Only Programs On Rise

In Grand Prairie, Texas, middle school students are getting straight talk about not having sex.

"Abstinence means you're not going to have sex until you get married," says J.D. Schulgen of Aim For Success.

It's called abstinence-only and its message is: You can't get pregnant or get a disease if you don't have sex.

The students are told, "the best a condom can do is reduce some of your risk to some of these things, some of the time."

As CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports, the only mention of contraception is to point out that it can fail.

"Wait until the appropriate time," says Lamar Collins of Worth The Wait.

According to the latest report from the government, fewer American teenagers are having sex. For some high school students, the message is getting through.

"It's a very positive thing that's being taught," says one teen, Gabrielle.

But they know there are things they're not hearing.

"I think they should go beyond abstinence," says another teen, Marcus. "Abstinence isn't enough."

You're not going to find too many people to argue against the idea that abstinence is a good thing to teach kids. But when it's abstinence only, well then you've got the makings of an educational and philosophical brawl.

"Teen-agers are human beings with raging hormones," says parent Melanie Cox.

Cox objects to what she calls misinformation in the abstinence-only education her kids got in Dripping Springs, Texas. She wants her children to know how condoms can prevent pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases, not just how they fail.

"Give them credit for having a brain so that they can make decisions without making life-altering mistakes," she says.

"What they're doing is assuming kids are going to have sex," says Dr. Joe McIlhaney of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health. "That's stupid to think, 'Well, they're going to do it, there's nothing we can do' when it's as risky as it is for them.'"

McIlhaney develops materials used to teach abstinence-only. His bottom line, teaching kids about contraceptives, encourages them to use contraceptives.

"What we now know for sexual activity for adolescents is that condoms do not make sex safe enough," he says.

In this great sex education debate, the federal government is taking a side by more than doubling funding for abstinence-only programs in the last five years.

More than a third of schools nationwide now offer abstinence-as-the-only answer. The question is: What are teenagers doing with the information?

Asked if kids in her school are having sex, teen Kristen says, "yeah."

"I think you really have to go beyond abstinence because, yeah abstinence is the best, but it's not what everybody's doing," says Gabrielle.

Some real world perspective from the very kids at the center of this adult debate.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.