Ab-Only May Help PreTeens Delay Sex

James Wagoner

Research released this week on an "abstinence-only" program for young, urban African American preteens found success in delaying sex for up to 24 months, but does not support the failed ab-only-until-marriage programs of the Bush era.

This article originally appeared at Advocates for Youth.

You may have seen a few newspaper articles with titles like “Abstinence-only programs might work, study says” in the past couple of days.  But are newspapers telling the whole story?  

The articles are based on a recent study by respected researchers John B. and Loretta S. Jemmott
and compare results for young people receiving three kinds of
programs:  an “abstinence-only” intervention, designed to help teens
wait until they are ready; a “combined intervention” which included
information about abstinence as well as contraception and condoms; and
a safer-sex-only intervention with no information about abstinence. 

The
study focused on young African American preteens in an urban area and
found that this new type of abstinence-only program can help some very
young adolescents (average age 12) delay sexual initiation for up to 24
months.

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It
is important to note that the study provides no data in support of the
failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs of the Bush era

The abstinence-only program in this study would not have been eligible
for federal funding during the Bush years because it did not fit the “8
point definition.” The program goal was to help early teens avoid sex
until they are ready—a totally different objective than the federally
funded abstinence programs already proven ineffective by the long-term
Mathematica study “which showed no impact on teen behavior.”

In the Jemmotts’ own
words: “It [the abstinence-only intervention] was not designed to meet
federal criteria for abstinence-only programs. For instance, the target
behavior was abstaining from vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse until
a time later in life when the adolescent is more prepared to handle the
consequences of sex. The intervention did not contain inaccurate
information, portray sex in a negative light, or use a moralistic tone.
The training and curriculum manual explicitly instructed the
facilitators not to disparage the efficacy of condoms or allow the view
that condoms are ineffective to go uncorrected.”

Public Policy Implications: Five Points to Keep in Mind

1. Almost one-quarter of the young people in the study were already sexually active when the study began
This is the problem with the “only” component of any “only-type”
program.  An abstinence-only program provides no information about
condoms and contraception even though, in this case, approximately
one-quarter of the young people in the intervention already had had
sex.

2. Previous research on virginity pledges (Bearman and
Bruckner), demonstrated that initial delays in sexual activity wore off
in the later teen years.  Half of all teens are sexually active by the age of 17 and 70 percent of youth have had sexual intercourse by age 19.  These teens need information about both abstinence and contraception.

3.
There is good research showing that many comprehensive sex education
programs — programs that provide information about both abstinence and
contraception/condoms — are effective at helping young people delay
sexual initiation as well as at using contraception/condoms
when they do become sexually active.  Thirty years of public health
studies have clearly determined that the provision of information about
condoms and contraception does not increase sexual activity among teens
or lower the age of sexual initiation.

4. Given limited
resources, shouldn’t we invest tax payer dollars in programs that can
deliver both delay in sexual initiation and increased contraceptive and
condom use by those who are sexually active? 

5.
Further, shouldn’t we respect young people enough to provide them with
all of the information they need to take personal responsibility for
their sexual health?

The Obama administration is on the
right track in funding only science-based programs with evidence of
effectiveness.  The administration should also consider how scarce
resources are best invested and recognize the rights of all young
people to complete, accurate and honest information about their sexual
health.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Changes Position on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back the Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, has promised to stand with nominee Hillary Clinton in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Kaine “has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment,” according to the network’s transcript.

“Voters can be 100 percent confident that Tim Kaine is going to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mook said.

The commitment to opposing Hyde was “made privately,” Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson later clarified to CNN’s Edward Mejia Davis.

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Kaine’s stated support for ending the federal ban on abortion funding is a reversal on the issue for the Virginia senator. Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard  that he had not “been informed” that this year’s Democratic Party platform included a call for repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Repealing the Hyde Amendment has been an issue for Democrats on the campaign trail this election cycle. Speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire in January, Clinton denounced Hyde, noting that it made it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

Clinton called the federal ban on abortion funding “hard to justify” when asked about it later that month at the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, adding that “the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.”

Clinton’s campaign told Rewire during her 2008 run for president that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

The Democratic Party on Monday codified its commitment to opposing Hyde, as well as the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funds being used for abortion care. 

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back Hyde’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

When asked about whether the president supported the repeal of Hyde during the White House press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said he did not “believe we have changed our position on the Hyde Amendment.”

When pushed by a reporter to address if the administration is “not necessarily on board” with the Democratic platform’s call to repeal Hyde, Schultz said that the administration has “a longstanding view on this and I don’t have any changes in our position to announce today.”