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Abstinence Only Education and Sex Education in the U.S. - State Requirements

Which States Require Sex Education, HIV Education, Abstinence Only Education?

By

Updated May 08, 2012
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in April 2012 that teen birth rates in the U.S. hit a historic new low in 2010 and revealed which states had the highest and lowest rates, the inevitable question followed: were these outcomes affected by individual states' requirements for sex education and/or abstinence-only education?

The answers were quickly forthcoming in the Guttmacher Institute's State Policies in Brief paper on Sex and HIV Education released May 1, 2012.

The following information is drawn from that brief which, in the Institute's words, "summarizes state-level sex and HIV education policies, as well as specific content requirements, based on a review of state laws, regulations and other legally binding policies."

States that Require Sex Education and/or HIV Education

Sex education is mandated in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Of that total, the following 20 states and the District of Columbia mandate both sex education and HIV education:

  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
Only 1 state mandates sex education only -- North Dakota.

HIV education is mandated in 33 states and the District of Columbia. Of that total, 13 mandate only HIV education:

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
States That Require Sex Education Include Contraception

When sex education is taught, specific states have specific content requirements.

In addition to the District of Columbia, 17 states require that information on contraception be provided when sex education is taught:

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
States That Require Sex Education Include Abstinence or Abstinence Only

When sex ed is taught, 37 states require that information on abstinence be provided. Of those, 26 states require that abstinence be stressed:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
These 11 states only require that abstinence be covered during sex education:
  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
States Without Any Sex Education or HIV Education Mandate

There are 11 states with no sex education or HIV education mandate:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • Texas
  • Virginia
Almost half of the states listed above also rank among the top 12 states with the highest teenage birth rates, and four rank in the top 6 (ranking indicated in parentheses):
  • Mississippi (1)
  • Arkansas (3)
  • Texas (4)
  • Louisiana (6)
  • Arizona (12)
An earlier report issued by the Guttmacher Institute in September 2006 compiled teen pregnancy statistics state by state. Among the top 10 states with the highest rates of teen pregnancy among females age 15-19, five are states without mandated sex education or HIV education (ranking indicated in parentheses):
  • Arizona (2)
  • Mississippi (3)
  • Texas (5)
  • Florida (6)
  • Arkansas (10)
  • Arizona (12)
That same report ranked the top 10 states with the highest rates of live births among teenage girls age 15-19. Again, five are states that do not require sex education to be taught in schools. If and when it is taught, these states do not require information on contraception be provided but they do require that abstinence be stressed (ranking indicated in parentheses):
  • Mississippi (1)
  • Texas (2)
  • Arizona (3)
  • Arkansas (4)
  • Louisiana (7)
Only one state that does not mandate sex education or HIV education appears in the listing of states with the lowest teenage birth rates -- Massachusetts, ranked at number 2.

Source:
"State Policies in Brief: Sex and HIV Education." Guttmacher Institute guttmacher.org. 1 May 2012.

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