The Failure of Abstinence-Only Education: Minors Have the Right to Honest Talk about Sex

51 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2009

See all articles by Hazel Glenn Beh

Hazel Glenn Beh

University of Hawaii

Milton Diamond

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Date Written: 2006


Federal sponsorship of abstinence-only education impairs the constitutional rights minors enjoy with respect to their sexual health and procreation decisions. Abstinence-only education's singular focus on abstinence, and its distortions concerning the effectiveness of methods of contraception and disease prevention, the risks associated with abortion, and the other consequences of sex misleads minors and compromises their ability and right to make informed health decisions. In light of the potential health risks associated with these curricula, abstinence-only education cannot be justified as intending to serve any significant state interest. While the government may have an interest in encouraging abstinence in unmarried youth, its current policy is being pursued at the expense both of truth and public health. Importantly, there is no evidence that providing comprehensive sex education promotes increased sexual behavior or dilutes the message that abstinence is a preferable choice, as proponents assert. Furthermore, the government's singular focus on abstinence represents an educational policy that is inconsistent with the democratic educational objective of preparing adolescents to make responsible, informed choices.

Keywords: Abstinence only sex education

Suggested Citation

Beh, Hazel Glenn and Diamond, Milton, The Failure of Abstinence-Only Education: Minors Have the Right to Honest Talk about Sex (2006). Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2006, Available at SSRN:

Hazel Glenn Beh (Contact Author)

University of Hawaii ( email )

2515 Dole St.
William S. Richardson School of Law
Honolulu, HI 96822
United States
(808) 956-6553 (Phone)
(808) 956-5569 (Fax)

Milton Diamond

University of Hawaii at Manoa ( email )

2500 Campus Road
Honolulu, HI NA 96822
United States

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