RealTime: Report Says No to Ab-Only Programs

Amie Newman

House Democrats increased funding for abstinence-only programs last week just in time for a new non-partisan report that reveals abstinence-only programs are not effective at reducing teen pregnancy and STD rates.

As if we needed more proof, a report released today by the non-partisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy offers clear evidence that abstinence-only programs do nothing to stem teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates in this country:

“At present, there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners. In addition, there is strong evidence from multiple randomized trials demonstrating that some abstinence programs chosen for evaluation because they were believed to be promising actually had no impact on teen sexual behavior. That is, they did not delay the initiation of sex, increase the return to abstinence or decrease the number of sexual partners.”

It may be too unwieldy for a bumper sticker so I say we just stick the above on a postcard and send it to Rep. David Obey and his fellow Democrats who just last week (!) increased federal funding for abstinence-only education.

How many studies, reports and polls do we need until we can finally shove abstinence-only programs in a box and hide them away in that scary hall closet that houses everything under the sun? I'm fine to let it gather dust until spring cleaning time and then throw it out with the equally useless (though certainly harmful), federally-funded crisis pregnancy centers.

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The report, "Emerging Answers 2007: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases" updates two previous studies on the subject.

Among the key findings:

  • Studies of abstinence programs have not produced sufficient evidence to justify their widespread dissemination.
  • There exists no strong evidence that any abstinence-only program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners.
  • In contrast, the positive outcomes of comprehensive sexuality education programs included: delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use.
  • Comprehensive sex education programs are well suited for widespread replication and dissemination.

It is important to note, with the above in mind, that comprehensive sexuality education programs do not receive dedicated federal funds – compared to the millions of dollars allocated to abstinence-only programs. In addition, the report answers the fears that advocates of abstinence-only programs have been touting by stating that,

"No comprehensive program hastened the initiation of sex or increased the frequency of sex. Emphasizing both abstinence and protection for those who do have sex is a realistic, effective approach that does not appear to confuse young people."

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