Abstinence Law and Legal Definition

Abstinence generally means to the act of refraining from something. Sexual abstinence has been promoted as a way to prevent social ills such as teen pregnancy, sexually transmittted diseases, and others. There are various federal and state laws, which vary by state, governing sexual abstinence education in schools. A provision in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. has led to the creation of hundreds of programs across the country urging young people to abstain from sex until marriage. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States reported that states used federal funding included in a 1996 welfare law to create nearly 700 "abstinence-only" programs in 1998.

The following is a section of a federal law with with abstinence education:

"42 U.S.C. ' 710. Separate program for abstinence education

(a) In general

For the purpose described in subsection (b) of this section, the Secretary shall, for fiscal year 1998 and each subsequent fiscal year, allot to each State which has transmitted an application for the fiscal year under section 705(a) of this title an amount equal to the product of--
(1) the amount appropriated in subsection (d) of this section for the fiscal year; and

(2) the percentage determined for the State under section 702(c)(1)(B)(ii) of this title. (b) Purpose of allotment

(1) The purpose of an allotment under subsection (a) of this section to a State is to enable the State to provide abstinence education, and at the option of the State, where appropriate, mentoring, counseling, and adult supervision to promote abstinence from sexual activity, with a focus on those groups which are most likely to bear children out-of-wedlock.

(2) For purposes of this section, the term "abstinence education" means an educational or motivational program which--

(A) has as its exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity;

(B) teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school age children;

(C) teaches that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems;

(D) teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity;

(E) teaches that sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects;

(F) teaches that bearing children out-of-wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child's parents, and society;

(G) teaches young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increase vulnerability to sexual advances; and

(H) teaches the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity."