Organizations that support abstinence-only-until-marriage programs portray sexuality education as a controversial issue. Yet, all evidence suggests that comprehensive sexuality education is a mainstream American value. A vast majority of Americans support comprehensive sexuality education—“medically accurate, age-appropriate education that includes information about both abstinence and contraception”—and believe young people should be given information about how to protect themselves from unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In fact, only 7% of the voting public say they do not want sexuality education to be taught at all as part of school curriculum.[1] In addition, most prominent public health and medical associations support comprehensive sexuality education and oppose ideologically based abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. 

National Surveys of Adults Demonstrate Overwhelming Public Support for Comprehensive Sexuality Education in American Schools

  • 93% of parents of junior high school students and 91% of parents of high school students believe it is very or somewhat important to have sexuality education as part of the school curriculum. In contrast, only 4% of parents of junior high school students and 6% of parents of high school students believe sexuality education should not be taught in school.[2]
     
  • 95% of parents of junior high school students and 93% of parents of high school students believe that birth control and other methods of preventing pregnancy are appropriate topics for sexuality education programs in schools.[3]
     
  • 88% of parents of junior high school students and 85% of parents of high school students believe information on how to use and where to get contraceptives is an appropriate topic for sexuality education programs in schools.[4]
     
  • 72% of parents of junior high school students and 65% of parents of high school students stated that federal government funding “should be used to fund more comprehensive sex education programs that include information on how to obtain and use condoms and other contraceptives” instead of funding programs that have “abstaining from sexual activity” as their only purpose.[5]
     
  • More than 6 in 10 voters would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports comprehensive sexuality education.[6]
State Surveys from Across the Country Demonstrate Overwhelming Support for Comprehensive Sexuality Education
  • 97% of parents in Washington State support sexuality education for high school students, and 87% of Washington’s parents believe teens should receive information on sex and sexuality over the claim that sex education encourages sexual activity among teens.[7]
     
  • 90% of adults in Texas favor teaching sex education that includes information about contraceptive methods, the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and abstinence.[8]
     
  • 85% of adults in Minnesota believe that sexuality education courses should include information on contraception.[9] 
  • 83% of Illinois voters agree that students in Illinois should have information about contraception and disease prevention, and that age-appropriate facts about pregnancy and STDs are an important part of all sex education programs.[10]
     
  • 81% of registered voters in South Carolina support sexuality education containing information on contraception and abstinence.[11]
     
  • 78% of California residents support programs that teach about abstinence as well as how to obtain and use contraceptives. Furthermore, residents believe that the federal government should pay for this instruction.[12]
Americans Strongly Support Including a Wide Breadth of Topics in Sexuality Education[13]
  • 100% of parents of junior high school students and 99% of parents of high school students believe HIV/AIDS is an appropriate topic for sexuality education programs in schools.
     
  • 100% of parents of junior high school students and 98% of parents of high school students believe sexually transmitted diseases other than HIV/AIDS, such as herpes, are appropriate topics for sexuality education programs in schools.
     
  • 99% of parents of junior high school students and 97% of parents of high school students believe the basics of how babies are made, pregnancy, and birth are appropriate topics for sexuality education programs in schools.
     
  • 97% of parents of junior high school students and 96% of parents of high school students believe information on how to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is an appropriate topic for sexuality education programs in schools.
     
  • 83% of parents of junior high school students and 79% of parents of high school students believe information on how to put on a condom is an appropriate topic for sexuality education programs in schools.[14]
     
  • 71% of parents of junior high school students and 73% of parents of high school students believe informing teens that they can obtain birth control pills from family planning clinics and doctors without permission from a parent is an appropriate topic for sexuality education programs in schools.
     
  • 80% of parents of junior high school students and 73% of parents of high school students believe homosexuality and sexual orientation are appropriate topics for sexuality education programs in schools.
Medical, Scientific, and Public Health Communities Support Comprehensive Sexuality Education
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that pediatricians “encourage adolescents to postpone early sexual activity[,]…[h]elp ensure that all adolescents have knowledge of and access to contraception including barrier methods and emergency contraception supplies…[and]…advocate for implementation and investments in evidence-based programs that provide comprehensive information and services to youth.”[15]
  • The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) believes that “investing in comprehensive sex education that includes support for abstinence but also provides risk-reduction information” would be a more effective HIV-prevention strategy for young people than simply an abstinence-only message.[16]
  • The American Medical Association (AMA) “urges schools to implement comprehensive, developmentally appropriate sexuality education programs” and “supports federal funding of comprehensive sex education programs that stress the importance of abstinence in preventing unwanted teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and also teach about contraceptive choices and safer sex.”[17]
  • The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends that “comprehensive and empirically supported sex education and HIV-prevention programs become widely available to teach youth how to abstain from risky sexual behaviors and learn how they can protect themselves against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.”[18] In addition, APA recommends that “public funding for the implementation of comprehensive sexuality education programs be given priority over funding for the implementation of abstinence-only…programs.”[19]
  • The American Public Health Association (APHA) urges that abstinence be“provided within public health programs that provide adolescents with complete and accurate information about sexual health. Such programs should be medically accurate and developmentally appropriate…[ and] based on theories and strategies with demonstrated evidence of effectiveness. Current federal funding for abstinence-only programs…should be repealed and replaced with funding for a new federal program to promote comprehensive sexuality education.”[20]
  • The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that “Congress, as well as other federal, state, and local policymakers, eliminate the requirements that public funds be used for abstinence-only education, and that states and local school districts implement and continue to support age-appropriate comprehensive sex education and condom availability.”[21]
  • The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) finds that,“Efforts to promote abstinence should be provided within health education programs that provide adolescents with complete and accurate information about sexual health, including information about concepts of healthy sexuality, sexual orientation and tolerance, personal responsibility, risks of HIV and other STIs and unwanted pregnancy, access to reproductive health care, and benefits and risks of condoms and other contraceptive methods…Current funding for abstinence-only programs should be replaced with funding for programs that offer comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education.”[22]
Broad Public Support for Comprehensive Sexuality Education Curricula is Found Across Ideological and Religious Lines
  • A majority of voters in nearly every demographic category, including Democrats, Republicans, and independents, as well as Catholics and evangelical Christians support comprehensive sex education.[23]
  • Over four in five anti-choice voters agree that students should receive age-appropriate, medically accurate sexuality education, beginning in the early grades and continuing through 12th grade.[24]
     
  • Almost nine in ten self-described Evangelical or born-again Christians support sexuality education being taught in schools.[25]
     
  • More than 14 faith-based organizations are members of the National Coalition to Support Sexuality Education, including the American Jewish Congress, the Office of Family Ministries and Human Sexuality of the National Council of Churches of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Young Women’s Christian Association of the USA. (See the full list of over 150 supporting organizations at www.ncsse.org.)
Updated November 2010


[1] Sex Education in America: General Public/Parents Survey. (Washington, DC: National Public Radio, Kaiser Family Foundation, Kennedy School of Government, 2004), 5.
[2] Ibid., 5.
[3] Ibid., 9.
[4] Ibid., 11.
[5] Ibid., 7. 
[6] Mobilizing Support for Sex Education: New Messages and Techniques (New York, NY: The Othmer Institute of Planned Parenthood of NYC, 2002).
[7] Sexual Health Education Poll of Washington State Parents and Voters, (Seattle, WA: Planned Parenthood Public Policy Network of Washington, 2004).
[8] August Scripps Howard Texas Poll (Texas: Scripps Howard, August 9–26, 2004).
[9]MOAPPP Sexuality Education Survey (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting, 2000), accessed 20 August 2010, <http://www.moappp.org/Documents/sexed_results.pdf>, question 8. 
[10] Illinois Voter Opinion Poll Summary of Findings (Chicago, IL: Illinois Campaign for Responsible Sex Education) accessed 19 October 2010, <http://icah.org/sites/icah.org/files/docs/IL%20Voter%20Opinion%20Poll%2006.09_0.pdf>.
[11] South Carolina Speaks 2004 (Columbia, SC: South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2004).
[12] Mark Baldassare, PPIC Statewide Survey (California: Public Policy Institute of California, 2005), accessed 14 January 2006, <www.ppic.org/content/pubs/S_1205MBS.pdf>.
[13] Sex Education in America, 9–13.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Jonathon Klein and the Committee on Adolescence, “Adolescent Pregnancy: Current Trends and Issues” Pediatrics (2005): 281-286.
[16] Issue Brief: Assessing the Efficacy of Abstinence-Only Programs for HIV Prevention among Young People (Washington, DC: American Foundation for AIDS Research, April 2005).
[17] Policy Statement, H-170.968 Sexuality Education, Abstinence, and Distribution of Condoms in Schools, American Medical Association, accessed 04 January 2007, <http://www.ama-assn.org/apps/pf_new/pf_online?f_n=browse&doc=policyfiles/HnE/H-170.968.HTM>.
[18]American Psychologists Association, Based on the Research, Comprehensive Sex Education is More Effective at Stopping the Spread of HIV Infection, Says APA Committee, Press Release published 23 February 2005, accessed 19 May 2005, <http://www.apa.org/releases/sexeducation.html>.
[19] “Resolution in Favor of Empirically Supported Sex Education and HIV Prevention Programs for Adolescents,” American Psychologists Association. 18-20 February, accessed 4 January 2007, <http://www.apa.org/releases/sexed_resolution.pdf>.
[20] Policy Statement, “Abstinence and U.S. Abstinence-Only Education Policies: Ethical and Human Rights Concerns,” American Public Health Association, 8 November 2006, accessed 3 January 2007, <http://www.apha.org/legislative/policy/policysearch/index.cfm?fuseaction=view&id=1332>.
[21] M.S. Ruiz, et al., No Time to Lose: Getting More from HIV Prevention (Washington, D.C: Institute of Medicine, 2000), 6.
[22] John Santelli, et. al., “Abstinence-only education policies and programs: A position paper for the Society for Adolescent Medicine,” Journal of Adolescent Health  38 (2006): 83-87.
[23]Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., “Memorandum: Application of Research Findings,” (Washington, DC: Planned Parenthood Federation of America and National Women’s Law Center, 12 July 2007), accessed 2 October 2007, <http://www.nwlc.org/pdf/7-12-07interestedpartiesmemo.pdf>.
[24] Mobilizing Support for Sex Education: New Messages and Techniques
[25] Sex Education in America, Table 3.