March 10, 2010
Why Is Abstinence Education Funding Ending?
Two sad facts: First, after more than a decade of declining rates, the
pregnancy rate among girls aged 15-19 rose 3 percent between 2005 and
2006. Second, the teen abortion rate also rose 1percent. Amazingly,
U.S. teen birth rates are more than three times that of Canada.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy estimated
that in 2004 alone, teen pregnancies cost U.S. taxpayers $9 billion in
health care, foster care, welfare and lost tax revenue.
So what is the Obama Administration doing about this?
Zeroing out all funding of abstinence-only sex education programs, to
fund even more condom programs.
The New York Times actually applauded this foolish
development in an editorial entitled “End to the Abstinence-Only
Fantasy.” It wrote on Dec. 20, 2009:
“The omnibus government spending bill signed into law last
week contains an important victory for public health. Gone is all
spending for highly restrictive abstinence-only sex education programs
that deny young people accurate information about contraceptives,
sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. The measure redirects
sex-education resources to medically sound program aimed at reducing
“Fantasy? Victory for public health?” The writer of that
editorial must have been smoking something that is still illegal in New
Even before the $153 million for abstinence-only funding was
eliminated, the condom educators were getting four times as much money
reports Valerie Huber, Director of the National Abstinence Educational
With what result? The American College of Pediatricians
spoke out recently: “Almost 40 years of emphasis on `safer sex’ with
`values neutral’ sex education, condoms and contraception has clearly
failed our young people.”
By contrast, pediatricians strongly endorse
abstinence-until-marriage sex education and recommends its adoption by
all school systems in lieu of “comprehensive sex education.” Why? “This
position is based on the `public health principle of primary prevention’
risk avoidance in lieu of risk reduction.”
The College acknowledged abstinence education has been
criticized for not providing critical health information about condom
use. “Abstinence education curricula, however, do not discourage the use
of condoms; rather that chastity obviates the need for condoms.”
However, it asserted the “effectiveness of abstinence sex
education in delaying the onset of sexual debut has been demonstrated in
rigorous scientific studies.”
For example, a study was published last month in a medical
journal by a husband-wife team, Drs. John and Loretta Jemmott, who
randomly assigned 662 African-American students in grades six and seven
to different groups: an eight hour abstinence-only program stressing the
benefits of delaying intercourse, an eight hour safe-sex program
stressing condom use; a 12 hour comprehensive intervention covering both
abstinence and condom use.
In a Feb. 8 editorial even the august New York Times
conceded, “The only program that successfully delayed the start of
sexual activity was the abstinence-only instruction. By the end of two
years, only a third of the abstinence-only group had engaged in sexual
intercourse compared with almost half (48,5 percent) of the control
group.” And 52 percent of “safer sex” condom kids began having sex.
Of course, abstinence supporters rejoiced and urged the
Obama Administration to reverse course and restore federal abstinence
funding. Not so fast, snorted the Times. The abstinence-only
folk argue that abstinence-until-marriage is the answer, while the
Jemmotts only urged kids to abstain until they were “more mature.”
How effective are the more rigorous programs? The Institute
for Research and Evaluation examined the “Heritage Keepers” program in
South Carolina and “Reasons of the Heart” in Virginia which made a case
of chastity until marriage. Both “reduced the number of teens who became
sexually active by about one-half, 12 months after the program.”
By contrast, a 20 year review of 32 Comprehensive Sex
Education (CSE) programs revealed that “No school-based CSE programs
were shown to increase the number of teens who used condoms
consistently, for more than a 3 month period.” And none “delayed the
onset of teen sexual intercourse for 12 months.”
Congress passed new $100 million Teen Pregnancy Prevention
grants, $75 million of which is to replicate programs “that have been
rigorously evaluated and have the strongest evidence of success,” and
$25 million for innovative strategies that may not yet be evaluated.
LeAnna Benn, director of “Teen Aid,” isn’t hopeful. “The
Federal Government took our five year contract and zeroed it out in one
year. They’ll fund Comprehensive Sex Education, not Abstinence Until
Perhaps, but Heritage and the Jemmotts should reapply, with
their track records.
Why? It’s good politics. A 2004 Zogby Poll reports 90 percent of adults
and teens agree teens should be given a strong abstinence message.