Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No Holding Hands in Tennessee?

Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager
Sometimes, the only logical reaction to a story is “WHAT?”

Tennessee just enacted one of the strictest abstinence education laws in the nation. In fact, the law bans teachers from talking about “gateway sexual activity” without defining what, exactly, “gateway sexual activity” is, leading opponents of the law to brand it the “no holding-hands bill.”

"Gateway sexual activity"? (Katie Tegtmeyer/Foter)
And you guessed it: Tennessee has one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation. Clearly, Tennessee teenagers are doing a lot of hand-holding. Or something.

I’m not here to pick on Tennessee – it’s not the only state that tries to tackle teen pregnancy with the “Just Say No” approach. The problem is, teens AREN’T saying no. Teens – including Tennessee ones – have sex. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 70% of American teenagers have had intercourse by their 19th birthday, beginning at age 17 on average.

Population Connection supports fact-based, unbiased comprehensive sex education. Why? Because it works.  One recent study found that teenagers who were taught both about contraception and the benefits of abstinence delayed having sex, protected themselves when they did and had the healthiest partnerships. Students who received only abstinence education also delayed having sex, but when they did, they were less likely to use contraception. And we all know what that leads to, which is great when you’re ready, but difficult when you’re not.  


  1. I support the idea of zero population growth; population growth is the ignored elephant in the room when it comes to green policy. But I also am a religious conservative who supports abstinence education. If you guys really want to solve this problem you should figure out how to bridge walls here.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Richard! Comprehensive sex education often includes information on the benefits of abstinence. But it also recognizes that not all teens will remain abstinent -- and gives those who aren't the tools they need to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

  3. Hmmm! Could these stats have anything to do with the fact that Guttmacher is research arm of Planned Parenthood??!