Alabama is one of 26 states that do not require sex education, and the state's laws encourage schools who choose to teach sex ed to base their methods around abstinence. Abstinence is the only method of "safe sex" that is completely effective in preventing pregnancy as well as infections and disease transmission. However, abstinence must avoid all forms of sexual contact- vaginal, oral, and anal sex in order to be truly effective.
In a study during the years of 2011 through 2015 published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 51.4% of males and 45.5% of females between the ages of 15-19 reported having oral sex with a partner of the opposite sex. This data shows that abstinence is not a widely shared ideal among teens, even though 26 states require that abstinence be stressed in their sexual education programs.
The age at which people first have sex is getting lower and lower due to social trends, as well as the median age for marriage becoming older, making the abstinence-only approach increasingly more dangerous. Unsafe sex can lead to sexually transmitted diseases and infections and unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.
Rather than showing students how to properly put on a condom through an appropriate demonstration or show us a video on the precautions to take in order to have safe sex, in both middle school and high school I was brought into another teacher's classroom to hear a volunteer speak about abstinence.
In these pro-abstinence, anti- pre-marital sex speeches, the speaker would most likely make abstract comparisons about having sex with more than one person in your lifetime, such as asking students would they want to chew a piece of gum after other people had chewed it.
Additionally, students were required to bring a permission form signed by their parents in order to attend this lesson. Because of this, many students didn't even bring the permission slip back just because they didn't want to go and feel awkward while talking about sex.
While sex may be awkward to talk about in an educational setting among peers, allowing students or their parents to opt out of sex education is putting more than just the individuals involved at risk.
While abstinence can be considered a form of "safe sex", it is not even sex and teaching abstinence as a form of safe sex in place of proper sexual education is denying students access to safety. By teaching abstinence over true safe sex, educators fail to provide beneficial resources for their students.
According to Alabama Public Health in 2015, 70% of high school students in the state that reported being sexually active but did not use long term birth control, and 49% did not use condoms. Alabama has low contraceptive rates which result in high rates of teen pregnancies, teen births, and repeat births to teens.
Condoms are found in drug stores, and under Title X laws, minors may consent to contraceptive services that would generally require parental consent. In many places, anyone, including minors, can request free or low-cost contraception at health departments, without parents of minors being notified, but without proper sex education, teens and young adults won't know to utilize these options and all the consequences that come with unsafe sex happen because of it.