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Hodges: Dealing with abstinence-only programs
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain's vice presidential pick, backs abstinence-only sex education in schools. This week Palin revealed that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant. Critics point to her daughter's predicament as proof this type of education does not work.

Proponents of abstinence-only are against comprehensive sex education mainly because they believe that such programs subtly encourage children to engage in sexual intercourse. On the other hand, opponents point out that federal government studies have shown students in abstinence-only programs are just as likely to have sex as those not enrolled in such programs.

The harsh reality that parents must face is that children growing up in the 21st century are exposed to sex more frequently and at much younger ages than most of us were growing up. Music videos, movies, television programs and the Internet are saturated with lascivious images.

It used to be primarily teenage boys who were pressured to lose their virginity to prove their masculinity. Now, even girls must deal with the immense peer pressure to act like adults while still in their teens; they begin wearing makeup and revealing clothing at young ages in an effort to attract older boys.

For many young people, engaging in sexual intercourse is just another dating activity. Many don't consider the consequences. Some don't realize how challenging raising a child can be - and understandably so, when celebrities such as 17-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears glamorize teen pregnancy. Jamie Lynn is the sister of Britney Spears and the star of the Nickelodeon children's television series "Zoey 101." The unwed teenager gave birth to a baby girl this summer.

Months after news of Spears' pregnancy broke, 17 girls in one high school in Gloucester, Mass., were expecting babies; many were age 16 or younger. It was later alleged that some of the girls were part of a "pregnancy pact." The girls reportedly high-fived each other when they found out they were pregnant.

As a parent, I continue to remind my three sons that my desire is that they abstain from sexual intercourse until they have entered into a marriage commitment. The argument that Bristol's pregnancy is proof that abstinence-only sex education does not work is tenuous. Bristol's pregnancy, however, proves that children don't always live up to their parents' desires. Thus a better approach to sex education may be a comprehensive program that encourages children to wait until marriage but recognizes that they may not do so.

Corey J. Hodges is pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church in Taylorsville. E-mail him at

coreyjhodges @ comcast. net or send comments to religioneditor@sltrib. com.

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