Well, I suppose it’s inevitable. The day I make a roundup about how abstinence only plans just don’t work, someone has to release a study saying "Hey, maybe they aren’t quite as bad as we thought." Am I daunted? Of course not! This study actually encourages everything we’ve believed about NOT providing abstinence only sex ed.
Confused? Let me explain.
First, the Washington Post article about the study points out that the "abstinence group" had a few things different from the abstinence only education classes pushed by the anti-choice advocates:
Several critics of an abstinence-only approach said that the curriculum
tested did not represent most abstinence programs. It did not take a
moralistic tone, as many abstinence programs do. Most notably, the
sessions encouraged children to delay sex until they are ready, not
necessarily until married; did not portray sex outside marriage as
never appropriate; and did not disparage condoms.
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"There is no data in this study to support the ‘abstain until
marriage’ programs, which research proved ineffective during the Bush
administration," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth.
A class that says you should wait to have sex, and that a condom might be a good thing to use? Call me crazy, but that sounds like a sex ed class to me.
The L.A. Times makes it even more clear:
The study was conducted among 662 African American sixth- and
seventh-graders in four low-income schools in the northeastern United
States. The students were randomized into four groups.
received an eight-hour abstinence-only class focusing on the risks of
pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It was based on principles
shown to be effective in reducing transmission of sexually transmitted
diseases and did not use a moralistic tone or portray sex in a negative
A second group received an eight-hour safe-sex class. The third group
received a comprehensive eight- or 12-hour class emphasizing both
aspects. The control group received education only about healthy living.
deputy director for the California Department of Public Health’s Center
for Family Health, said previous research had shown that it made sense
to include abstinence education as part of a comprehensive program.
comprehensive approach that does include abstinence is the most
effective program," she said. "We have never disagreed with that. But
we would prefer to call it abstinence-plus."
The argument has never been about only teaching safe sex practices versus only teaching abstinence only education. Reasonable parties have always wanted to teach a comprehensive approach that tells teens that you should wait to have sex, but if you don’t, you need to protect yourself and your partner from pregnancy and disease, especially via the use of condoms.
This latest study totally supports those findings.
Of course, that isn’t stopping the usual suspects from trying to use it as a cudgel to end any program that doesn’t stick just to a "no sex before marriage" curriculum. Pro-Life Wisconsin, reacting to the movement of the Healthy Youth Act through legislature, released this statement yesterday:
Matt Sande, director of legislation for Pro-Life Wisconsin, told
LifeSiteNews that in addition to disrespecting the opinions of parents,
pastors, and other local community leaders, the bill "contradicts sound
A study in
the Journal of the American Medical Association released today details
how abstinence-only sexual education is linked to a lower rate of
sexual activity among high-risk teens.
"This clinical study
demonstrates that abstinence-only education programs can be very
effective in curbing teen sexual activity,” said Sande. "Regrettably,
the ideological and political agenda of Planned Parenthood dictates
public policy in our state – and it is our kids who will suffer the
Luckily, in Utah, where a contentious plan to add information on contraception to sex ed classrooms, people are taking a much more reasonable approach to the new study:
Liz Zentner, Utah PTA health commissioner, said she believes
abstinence has gotten a bad rap. "This study seems to validate an
approach that many feel has the best chance of helping kids make the
healthiest choice both physically and emotionally."
added she would be interested in seeing the curriculum the students in
the study used. "We want to use an approach that has demonstrated it
has a solid track record of making a difference," she said.
In short, no, the people advocating sex ed that isn’t simply a "don’t do it ever!" approach didn’t get caught with their pants down with the release of this new abstinence study. It simply proves what we already knew: teach kids to wait, but also to be responsible. And to spend more time figuring out how to address the real problems that add to risk of teenage pregnancy.
February 2, 2010
Verdict Against Vigilantism New York Times
the Ban on Federally Funded Abortions Constitutional? Huffington Post
February 1, 2010
Super Bowl ad isn’t intolerant; its critics are Washington Post
Untold Story:Reproduction Coercion
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Blog
Streisand Effect Opposing
And Its Homophobic Superbowl Double-Standard Huffington Post
Action Must Originate From Principle" CCN News Online
Pope Benedict’s Visit To Britain Irish Central
signs deal for emergency contraceptive
to Get a Teenager Pregnant Psychology Today
CBS Have Allowed the Tebow Ad? New York Times
Would Jesus Do? Huffington
SHAPER: ‘Just Say No’ to Planned Parenthood Mansfield News Journal
classes may be effective for young teens Los Angeles Times
‘orphan’ rescue mission: Adoption or child trafficking? Christian Science Monitor