By Evelyn Robinson
Stressing the importance of abstinence among American youth is not popular in most liberal circles, yet research has shown that refraining from sexual intercourse dramatically reduces the number of abortions among young adults. Some conservative groups have expressed concern that they were being unjustly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service on ideological grounds, simply because they actively promoted abstinence among young women and opposed abortion. Despite opposition from some government and liberal circles, as well as pro-life groups, a comprehensive study conducted by the Family Research Council, a conservative think tank founded in 1983 and based in Washington, DC, discovered that abstinence is among the most effective ways to avoid unwanted pregnancies and the consequent traumatic decision of whether to have an abortion.
Alarming Numbers Prove Importance of Abstinence
The Family Research Council (FRC) partnered with the Marriage and Religion Research Institute in exploring pregnancy and abortion related data in the US between 2006 and 2010. The newly released results of this study show that only 6.2% of women who abstain from sexual intercourse until they turn 20 ever decide to have an abortion. In stark contrast to this, a staggering 37.9% of teenagers who become sexually active closer to 14 years of age will eventually have at least one abortion in their childbearing years. As such, researchers have concluded that one’s age at the time of initial sexual contact with a partner plays a particularly significant role in the likelihood of having an abortion later in life. The fact that 50% of abortions take place among Americans who are under 20 years of age and 80% occur before the age of 24 may be surprising to many Americans, especially those who have little interest in promoting abstinence. These alarming statistics, however, further highlight the importance of educating young adults about abstinence as a way to avoid a major trauma in their life.
Abstinence and Sexual Health
Abstinence goes far beyond reducing the number of abortions; it is also the most effective way to maintain good sexual health and address the growing problem of sexually transmitted diseases. According to the FRC, 19 million cases of STDs are recorded nationally each year. STDs can be serious, debilitating conditions; when left untreated, they can cause lasting damage to one’s nervous system, heart, liver and other organs. As such, being aware of the dangers of STD’s and taking all of the necessary steps to avoid them, can save one a great deal of grief down the line. The Mayo Clinic notes that in the most severe cases, STDs can even lead to life-threatening complications, like cervical cancer, as well as lymphoma. While doctors recognize that there is a risk of being infected without sexual contact—such as through Hepatitis A--in the vast majority of cases sexually transmitted infections are spread through sexual intercourse. Even the most respected, secular organizations, such as the Mayo Clinic, recognize what Christian and conservative groups have been saying all along, namely that abstinence is the most effective way to avoid STDs and the many subsequent complications.
The Political Will to Act
Some Christian conservative groups, such as the Cherish Center, hold so-called “No Apology” nights with teens, in order to educate them on the importance of abstinence. These have gone a long way in spreading this critical message. Their programs reach out to both teens, as well as their parents, giving them the tools and resources to act responsibly. The group’s message is one of God’s love, the focus and language used is not confrontational, yet by reaching out to up to 1,500 teenagers and parents, the organizers can have a major impact.
Some liberal groups, however, still don’t get the message that abstinence is far more effective than simply handing out birth control or other contraceptives to teens, and calling it a day. Many are quick to jump on any opportunity to show that abstinence does not work and that it’s little more than an attempt by retrograde Christians to force their conservative political agenda on the nation. This, however, has been clearly disproved with a growing body of research strongly suggesting that abstinence education needs to serve as the primary vehicle through which school districts, parents and community groups tackle the problem of unwanted pregnancies, as well as the long series of troubles that arise from engaging in sexual intercourse at an early age.