Abstinence-Only Renewal

11 June 2007

The United States spends somewhere around $87.5 million each year on abstinence-only education. Given this hefty bill, Congress recently commissioned a study to determine if it was paying off. The result?

"The impact results from the four selected programs show no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence."

And just for good measure, here are a few more.

"Current research findings do not support the position that the abstinence-only approach to sexuality education is effective in delaying the onset of intercourse."

"…It is a matter of grave concern that there is such a large incentive to adopt unproven abstinence-only approaches." "…the effective programs identified to date provide information about safer sex, condoms, and contraceptives, in addition to encouraging abstinence."

"…Investing hundreds of millions of dollars of federal and state funds over five years in abstinence-only programs with no evidence of effectiveness constitutes poor fiscal and public health policy…. Congress, as well as other federal, state and local policy makers, [should] eliminate requirements that public funds be used for abstinence-only education."

"Proponents of abstinence-only policies argue that providing information about contraception or providing condoms to adolescents sends a mixed message to youth and may promote sexual activity." However, "expert panels that have studied this issue, have concluded that comprehensive sex and HIV/AIDS education programs and condom availability programs can be effective in reducing high-risk sexual behaviors among adolescents. In addition, these reviews and expert panels conclude that school-based sex education and condom availability programs do not increase sexual activity among adolescents."

"…Two trends have contributed to the declines in teenage birth and pregnancy rates. First, the long-term increase in the proportion of teenaged women who were sexually experienced leveled [off]… In addition, among sexually experienced teenagers who used any method of contraception, condom use increased substantially."

"Although sexual abstinence is a desirable objective, programs must include instruction in safer sex behavior, including condom use. The effectiveness of these programs is supported by strong scientific evidence."

"All adolescents should be counseled about the correct and consistent use of latex condoms to reduce risk of infection."

Basically, the program is a failure and doesn't even increase abstinence, let alone reduce teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. So what does Congress do in response? Well, the House subcommittee wants to increase federal funding by $27.8 to $141 million. Apparently, the Democrats are complying with this in order to persuade Congressional Republicans to go along with their other domestic spending plans. But there's not even any guarantee that that will happen.

So what we have here is an expensive program that the majority party says it doesn't want, that the data shows doesn't work, and which apparently will just increase incidents of teenage pregnancy and STDs. And the Democrats are agreeing to increase its funding.

It's also worth noting that federal funding of abstinence-only education has a history of subsidizing religious proselytization. For example, over $1 million in federal funds were spent on the Silver Ring Thing, an abstinence-only group that attempted to achieve its goal by handing out silver rings lined with bible quotes. Currently, the Stop and Think program is receiving funds for abstinence-only education in Oregon. This group requires that its supervisors “possess an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ; possess knowledge of the Word of God, and the ability to communicate it’s [sic] truth; exhibit a loving and merciful spirit; [and] attend a Bible believing local church or fellowship.”

And just for fun, what do the presidential candidates think about this?
  • John McCain "strongly opposes efforts by the Democratic-controlled Congress to eliminate abstinence-only sex education classes for school-aged children."
  • Mike Huckabee says
    "Abstinence education provides a valuable counterweight to peer pressure and the message young people get from the popular culture encouraging casual relationships and separating sex from love, commitment and marriage. I do not believe in teaching about sex or contraception in public schools. That is the responsibility of parents. I am disappointed that funding for abstinence education is not likely to be renewed by the Democrat Congress. This reversal only emphasizes how important it is for Republicans to take back Congress and win the White House with an authentic conservative in 2008. I miss the America I grew up in where the Gideons gave Bibles to fifth graders instead of school nurses giving condoms to eighth graders. With so much at stake, it's important that we return to the core values and guiding principles which have made our country great."
  • Sam Brownback says
    "Abstinence-only programs are great examples of curriculums that send positive messages to young people encouraging them to protect themselves and their future. Teens who abstain from sexual activity are less likely to have children out-of-wedlock; less likely to live in poverty and on welfare; and more likely to have stable marriages as adults. Title V of the Social Security Act supports abstinence education and aims to keep our youth out of harm's way by protecting them from sexually transmitted diseases and other risky situations. Accordingly, I support the reauthorization of Title V and have recently sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee asking Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Grassley to make this reauthorization a reality."


infiniteregress said...

I think you should visit www.teenpregnancy.org.

The religion section on that website is simply teeeeeming with information on the association between parent/peer religiosity and teen sexual experience/abstinence.

Also, sweet blockquotes. (You're pretty close to going overboard though.)

Samuel Brainsample said...

I really just wanted a chance to show off my sweet new blockquotes. Also, thanks for the links.