Illinois Bans Abstinence-Only Sex Education

Illinois Bans Abstinence-Only Sex Education May 29, 2013

Here’s a bit of refreshing news. The Illinois legislature has passed a law forbidding the teaching of abstinence-only sex education in public schools. Under the new law, if a school offers sex education it must include information about contraception. The governor is expected to sign it.

Illinois public schools that teach sex education will be required to provide information about birth control under a measure the Senate sent to Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday.

The legislation is a change from current policy, where abstinence is the only requirement for schools with sex ed classes. The measure was approved on a 37-21 vote and needed 30 to pass.

Supporters argue that abstinence-only education is not effective and students should be taught about other methods of birth control and protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Opponents contend abstinence-only education should remain the norm in schools, saying parents should decide how to educate their kids about sex.

Sponsoring Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said the measure still would require schools to teach that abstinence is the only way to prevent pregnancy and disease, while at the same time allowing “students to make healthy decisions for themselves.”

This doesn’t ban teaching about abstinence as the only totally effective means of preventing pregnancy and STDs, nor should it. It requires comprehensive sex education that teaches both abstinence and contraception.

"My best guess: Hagbard Celine. Or some similar Erisian Avatar."

Trump Blames Obama for ‘Corrupt’ Election ..."
"I mean, it's not the worst. You should see the Markov chain boy my roommate ..."

Trump Blames Obama for ‘Corrupt’ Election ..."
"Mixed nuts, with mushrooms and herbs. I'm a heretic, and proud of that fact."

Trump Blames Obama for ‘Corrupt’ Election ..."
""Walking infomercial before photo"That is an amazing turn of phrase, and I feel a need ..."

Trump Blames Obama for ‘Corrupt’ Election ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • madgastronomer

    Abstinence isn’t “the only totally effective means of preventing pregnancy and STDs”. Abstinence does not prevent rape or sexual assault. That is why schools shouldn’t teach that abstinence is totally effective.

  • @madgastronomer

    ….so that leaves only death as the only totally effective means of preventing both and being ‘fixed’ as the only one preventing pregnancy??

  • blf

    Abstinence does not prevent rape or sexual assault.

    Those are “legitimate rapes” and so don’t count.


    (Just to be clear: The quoted point is quite valid— Abstinence is not guaranteed effective.)

  • “… parents should decide how to educate their kids about sex.”

    And therein lies the whole purpose of sex education in public schools: parents are NOT educating their kids about sex. At all. When the only source of information about sex that kids get comes from late-night television and internet porn, society has a problem. Kudos to Illinois for finally entering the modern age.

    My state, Washington, has required medically and scientifically accurate sex ed — including STD prevention, including safer-sex practices to help avoid HIV — since 2008. If you want to know where other states stand, and the laws mandating sex ed practices, you can find the information here.

  • erichoug

    @ Madgastronomer

    I am strongly in favor of comprehensive sex education. But, what you are doing is nearly as bad.

    Instead of trying to confuse the issue to win some sort of partisan political argument, why don’t we present the facts to kids without argument. Yes, abstinence IS the only 100% effective way of preventing pregnancy and STD’s, realistically though, most of you will not stay abstinent until you get married, this is what sex is (Yes, a blow job is sex as is Anal, despite what your youth minister said and yes you can get an STD from either and in some rare cases, get pregnant).

    Once you start introducing wishful thinking and overstating your cause you are lying to kids.

  • Abstinence works. “Abstinence ONLY” sex ed DOESN’T. Teaching that abstaining from sex is doable for most horny young people is like teaching babies not to eat chocolate bunnies. The babies may or may not nod patiently until the lesson is over; in the end, almost all of them will THEN eat the chocolate bunnies.


    has nothing to do with the current discussion but it is fucking funny.

  • According to Mormons (by way of the Jodi Arias trial) only genital intercourse is forbidden until marriage, thereby preserving the virginity of their girls. Everything else goes: anal, oral, you name it.

  • madgastronomer


    Sterilization — complete, not just tubals and vasectomies — but that’s about it. That’s exactly why teens need to know more than just “birth control and condoms exist, but abstinence is the only effective thing”. They need to know how to handle it if they are raped and do get pregnant or contract and STD. They need to know what their options are. Why on earth should we teach them that there are any 100% effective means of preventing these things?


    How does abstinence prevent pregnancy and STDs contracted from rape? Because if it doesn’t then it is not 100% effective and it is a lie to say so. And “wishful thinking” and “overstating your cause” to boot.

  • One thing that perplexes me about abstinence only education.

    What do you do when your married? Stay abstinent?

  • Good on Illinois!

  • erichoug


    Are you the victim of abstinence only education or do you simply not understand what the word Abstinence means? It would perhaps be better to say, abstaining from sex. Being raped or sexually assaulted is not abstinence, neither is oral sex or anal sex or other ideas put forward by wishful thinking. If you teach a comprehensive sex education then children understand that being raped is still sex, is not abstinence and they have a potential for pregnancy and STD’s and can take appropriate action.

    The point I am making is that YOU, much like Abstinence only proponents, are trying to confuse children and it is not a good idea. Any good sex ed course should start with a discussion of why abstinence is the only 100% effective method of BC and prevention of STDS and then move into a discussion of what sex is, how to protect yourself, the pros and cons of different BC methods and the prevention of, symptoms of and treatment for STD’s.

    If instead, you say, “Oh, yeah abstinence is pointless because once you get raped you’re in trouble” then you area moron and should not be instructing children.

  • Trebuchet

    According to Mormons (by way of the Jodi Arias trial) only genital intercourse is forbidden until marriage, thereby preserving the virginity of their girls. Everything else goes: anal, oral, you name it.

    I suspect Bishop Mitt would disagree. It’s just what Mormon guys tell girls they don’t actually want to make into good Mormon wives.

  • dingojack

    erichoug – so you think rape and sexual assault involves consent then?

    [Rapist grabs victim from behind and whispers in her ear]

    Rapist: Now I’m gonna rape you

    Victim: But I’m abstinence only.

    Rapist: Oh – OK well in that case I wont. [lets victim go and runs away].

    and also:

    The only 100% effective way to avoid getting gun shot wounds to head – is to abstain from shoot yourself through the head. But if some shoots you through the head (either accidentally, by accident or deliberately)* I’m so sure all that period of not shooting yourself through the head is going to all the difference, right?




    * and in America the chance of being killed by gun shot wound(s) is around 10.3 per 100000 [final data 2010]

  • madgastronomer


    From Merriam-Webster Online:

    Definition of ABSTINENCE


    : voluntary forbearance especially from indulgence of an appetite or craving or from eating some foods


    a : habitual abstaining from intoxicating beverages

    b : abstention from sexual intercourse

    So no, being raped is not somehow failing at abstinence, because being raped is definitionally not voluntary.

    Do you think that if you’re raped, have you somehow failed at abstinence? What utter nonsense. Dangerous nonsense, and often used to blame the victims of rape for their own rape.

    No, I never had abstinence-only sex ed. I had very thorough sex ed, in fact. But I also had thorough education on the definitions of both rape and abstinence.

    And, by the way, check your reading comprehension, at no point have I said that oral, anal, or any other kind of non-PIV sex was not sex. Of course it is.

  • erichoug

    OK, lets have a quiet discussion about this.

    1) I am not in favor of abstinence only education

    2) Whether or not the sex is consensual, it is not abstinence. Most people who have not been confused by abstinence only sex ed understand this.

    3) The point of comprehensive sex ed should be to give accurate, COMPREHENSIVE education regarding sex to children. This should include telling them what sex is and discussing the potential problems that can arise from sex and how to avoid them.

    4) If sex ed is to be truly comprehensive, there is no reason, and really no need, to avoid a discussion of abstinence.

    5) if this comprehensive sex ed is successful, a young woman who has been raped will understand the points made by Dingojack and Madgastronomer and realize that she needs to consult a medical professional for emergency contraception and testing/treatment for STDs

    I am not saying abstinence is the only, or even the best path to take for young people. Personally, it wasn’t the path that I took. But, I did know people that did. Some of them were happy that they did and some were not.

    The point I am making is, if you are in favor of COMPREHENSIVE sex education, you cannot avoid a discussion of the pros and cons of abstinence just as you cannot avoid a discussion of the pros and cons of birth control methods.

    The best thing to do is to give kids an HONEST, and OPEN discussion of sex ed. Your points about rape and sexual assault should be included in a description of abstinence, otherwise you get morons who think if you get raped, you can’t get pregnant.

  • madgastronomer

    You can have a conversation about the pros and cons of abstinence — which I’m all for — without lying. Indeed, if it’s a real conversation about the pros and cons of abstinence, it must happen without lying.

    Abstaining means voluntarily refraining from. That voluntary bit is crucial to the definition. Rape is not voluntary. You cannot choose to be raped. Being raped is not failing to be abstinent. Choosing to be abstinent does not protect anyone from being raped, and does not protect anyone from pregnancy or infection as a result of rape. Therefor, abstinence is not 100% effective. Period.

    Your definition of abstinence is simply incorrect. Abstinence is not the same as virginity. Abstinence cannot be stolen.

    The entire point of teaching kids about abstinence, contraception, disease prevention, and sex, is so that they can make a choice. Being raped is not a choice. It’s not something they can choose not to do. Teens need to know that, especially because date and acquaintance rape are so very common among teens and 20-somethings. Young women need to know that choosing not to have sex is not the ultimate shield against pregnancy, that even if they choose not to have sex, if they get roofied, they can still get pregnant, so that they can choose whether or not to use other methods of birth control as backups.

    Your definition of abstinence is neither the correct one nor the common one. Want to prove me wrong? Go find a reputable dictionary that does not define abstinence as voluntary.

  • dingojack

    Uh Eric – you do realise that this is a blog right? The posts don’t just mysteriously disappear into the air, you are aware of that right?

    ” Yes, abstinence IS the only 100% effective way of preventing pregnancy and STD’s,….” – yours #5.

    Ah nope. Rape stats: USA 28.6 per 100000 (UN 2009)*. So perhaps 99.9714% (at best) effective.



    * take this figure with a barrel of salt,it’s only recording reported rapes, the real figures could be far higher..

  • slc1

    Re erichoug @ #5

    I believe that former President Clinton would not agree with you. His defense from perjury was that blowjobs weren’t really sex

  • neonsequitur

    If we could figure out how educate rapists to abstain, that would be 100% effective, wouldn’t it?

    Oh wait, the Department of Defense has been trying to do that for years. Never mind….

  • erichoug

    Yes, I do realize this is a blog. Since it is clear that you are all seeking a meaning other than the meaning that I clearly intended for “Abstinence”, how about if I clarify and say instead that not having sex is the only 100% effective method of BC and and preventing STDs. Would that make everyone happy?

    Hopefully most people can understand that this is true but that it is also not really likely in our culture. Personally, I find abstinence to be a ridiculous and self imposed exile from one of the best parts of the human experience.

    But, as I said more than once, the point should be to give honest, straightforward information to kids about sex. And one of those honest and straightforward things that we should tell kids is that the only 100% effective way of avoiding pregnancy and STDs is not having sex.

    I am hoping that point is clear and I will let Dingo and the Gastronomer have the last semantic pedantic word in the matter. Thanks for your time.

    Also, @ SLC1 This is another ridiculous myth that you get from muddying the waters around sex. There are several STDs that you can get via oral sex.

  • ema

    Any good sex ed course should start with a discussion of why abstinence is the only 100% effective method of BC and prevention of STDS….

    Since it’s incorrect even a so-so sex ed course should not, at any point, state that abstinence is the only 100% effective method of BC and prevention of STDS.

    Unlike for most of the other birth control methods we just don’t have the data on the typical use failure rate for [continuous] abstinence. The most you can say about this method is that while its perfect use failure rate is 0, an unknown typical use rate + available evidence indicate abstinence is probably not a very effective method.

    Whether or not the sex is consensual, it is not abstinence.

    You are unclear on the difference between perfect and typical use. Rape is the very example of typical use. It causes the birth control user to use the method incorrectly. Biology doesn’t care why/how a method isn’t used correctly and consistently. The only relevant factor is that in real life (typical use) there will be failures of use.

  • ema

    Ugh, tag fail.

    Whether or not the sex is consensual, it is not abstinence.

    You are unclear on the difference….

  • madgastronomer


    Since it is clear that you are all seeking a meaning other than the meaning that I clearly intended for “Abstinence”

    YOU are the one seeking a non-standard meaning. I quoted one dictionary to you. Do you want me to go find some more? The standard meaning of the word abstinence includes the idea that it is intentional. This is true regardless of what you meant by it. The problem isn’t that we’re deciding to use some different definition, it’s that you’re refusing to use it the way everybody else does.

    And, again, this difference is significant because good sex ed is about giving people accurate information to base their decisions on. Unfortunately no one can choose not to ever be raped. Your definition of abstinence would make it irrelevant to decision making, because it would not be something people could reliably choose to do. Do you even understand how high the rate of rape is? The rate of pregnancy from rape is much lower than it used to be precisely because other means of contraception are widely available. That is precisely the information that people need: that deciding not to have sex does not necessarily mean that they will never be exposed to the risk of pregnancy or STIs. And that is precisely what your insistence that abstinence is a perfect preventative (under your definition) gives a false impression of, because other people understand that abstinence is something you choose. When you say a word that means “choosing not to have sex” followed by “is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy and STIs,” you leave out the bit where the choice is taken away from people, but they can still get pregnant or STIs. Can you wrap your brain around this?

  • madgastronomer

    OK, look. Clearly, erichoug does not want to admit he might be wrong about any definition. So let me state clearly what I think constitutes accurate information about this:

    If you have a uterus, and you never come into contact with any sperm, you can’t get pregnant. If you never come into contact with anybody else’s bodily fluids (most sexually transmitted diseases are also blood borne), you can’t get an STI. But about one woman in six in the US will be raped in her lifetime, and we don’t have anything like good enough statistics to guess at how many men. About 5% of pregnancies every year result from rape, according to our best estimates, and most of those are very young women who are raped by people known to them. Those statistics are based on self-reporting, and rape is grossly under-reported.

    You can choose not to have sex, and that’s fine, but if that’s the choice you make, you can still be raped, and if you are raped, you are still at risk for pregnancy and STIs.

    And just to make my position really clear, since erichoug keeps assuming really weird things about me: I am a 35 year old woman. I am married to a woman. Remarkably little of the sex I have these days involves a penis in my vagina. I have been involved in reproductive rights activism and in safer sex education on and off for eighteen years, starting in high school in the 90s as part of an AIDS education program. My only motivation is making sure people have accurate information on which to base their decisions, and have access to the means to manage their health and reproduction as they choose.

    I object to the claim that abstinence is 100% effective as a preventative based on the fact that using the common definitions of the words involved, it is simply not factually correct.

  • slc1

    Re erichong @ #20

    Hey, I was just quoting former President Clinton. I have no opinion on the subject.

  • Ichthyic

    Abstinence education has been an unmittigated failure. Test after test has shown this, but you don’t have to believe me. read the evidence in the primary literature for yourself:

  • magistramarla

    I grew up in Illinois, and I had a very thorough eighth grade sex-ed class in the very early ’70s.

    The instructor did the classic demonstration of how to use a condom using a banana.

    She also explained BC pills and a container of them was passed around. She was exasperated to find that one was missing and explained that just one wasn’t going to help the person who stole it.

    We were actually shown a film of a baby being born. The pregnant girl sitting next to me fainted and fell out of her chair. The class was too late for her – I think that we should have had such a class beginning in sixth grade.

    I hope that the state goes back to teaching sex ed this way.

  • Pingback: No more abstinence-only education in Illinois.()