Abstinence education: Why it’s more important than ever Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011 -- 1:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

In Wisconsin, we’ve been hearing a lot in the media these days about sex education. Our state Legislature is debating a bill which would overturn a law passed two years ago called the Healthy Youth Act.

That law required public schools that offer sex education to teach about proper use of contraceptives, among other things. The proposed new law, called the “Strong Communities . . . Healthy Kids Act,” would emphasize abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and disease.

Status of proposed new law

The new proposal would also restore flexibility and local control that school districts used to enjoy in offering different approaches to human growth and development instruction. The Wisconsin Catholic Conference has urged support for this new proposal, which passed the state Senate on November 2.

The Assembly Committee on Education has scheduled a public hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 10 a.m. in Room 417 North (GAR Hall) of the State Capitol building in Madison.

Proponents of the law now on the books say that children need to be fully informed about all aspects of sexual activity. Stressing abstinence, they say, would do little to stop teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).

Positive understanding of human sexuality

However, they are wrong in so many ways. First of all, we should start with a clear understanding of human sexuality. It is a beautiful gift from God, something we should cherish and celebrate. “The Catholic Church places a high value on sexual intimacy and holds everyone to a high moral and spiritual standard in using God’s gift of sexuality,” says True Love Waits, an abstinence resource provided by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.

“We recognizes that sexual intercourse is a passionate, joyful, holy, and reconciling celebration of the person. It also expresses the commitment and faith that gives human beings an opportunity to share in God’s work of creation. The sexual union of a man and woman in marriage is a way of imitating the Creator’s ability to give freely and generously along with the capacity to bring about life,” says True Love Waits (available at

Appeal to a higher standard

In our schools, we should be appealing to our children’s highest values, rather than the lowest. We also diminish their own capacities for self-control by assuming that they can’t control themselves. This would be the same as saying, “You can’t control yourself about smoking, drinking, or drugs. Go ahead and use them but just be careful!”

No, when it comes to other kinds of behavior, we expect young people to do the right thing. We don’t teach them the wrong behavior. We realize all kids won’t live up to our high expectations, but we don’t lower our standards.

And besides, if we’re talking about preventing pregnancy and STDs, abstinence is virtually 100 percent effective. Contraceptives all have failure rates.

Abstinence is the best choice

True Love Waits admits that we face significant challenges as we try to convince teens to make counter-cultural and Gospel-centered choices. Through programs such as True Love Waits, many teens are getting the message that sexual abstinence is the best choice. It is a choice for freedom, for responsibility,  for wholeness, and for holiness.

Abstinence is more important than ever. It is the only message that will protect our children’s bodies and preserve their innocence, and local school districts should be given this option, said Pro-Life Wisconsin in urging concerned citizens to attend the hearing on November 16. People can register or speak in favor of the proposed law.

I also encourage people to contact their state legislators and the governor in support of the “Strong Communities    . . . Healthy Kids Act” through the Legislature’s Web site at