Why Abstinence Education Is about to Go Away

It appears the federal grant program that made abstinence education available to public schools will be allowed to expire at the end of this month, despite the fact these programs have helped cut the rate of teen sexual activity, teen pregnancy and abortion.Title V, as the $50 million mandatory appropriation for abstinence education is called, was part of the welfare reform bill passed in 1996 by the Republican-led Congress. However, the money the federal government spends on explicit anything-goes-as-long-as-it-goes-with-a-condom brand of sex education is at least 12 times that amount.

Nevertheless, groups on the receiving end of the big bucks – Planned Parenthood, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States and Advocates for Youth – were threatened by the success of these abstinence programs, so they pulled out all the stops to get liberal governors to refuse them and the Democrat-controlled Congress to eliminate the funds for abstinence education.

They found a powerful ally in Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the powerful Democrat who now chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Waxman, who has been one of the strongest abortion-rights supporters in Congress, has decried the pittance that has been spent on abstinence education as waste.

It’s not hard to figure out where Waxman is coming from on this one: The more money spent on abstinence education, the fewer teens having sex. Fewer teens having sex mean fewer pregnancies, and fewer pregnancies mean less money for his friends in the abortion business.

You might say abstinence education is a victim of its own success. Recently, it has received a lot of bad press as a result of lazy journalists who recycle information fed to them by the nation’s pregnancy profiteers.

Would a journalist blindly accept a report from a tobacco company that shows smoking promotes good health without thoroughly checking out the facts contained in the report? Of course not! But they accept information handed to them by the condom pushers and print it as gospel.

The nuclear weapon now in the hands of the so-called “safe sex” crowd was a gift from the Clinton administration. Eight years ago the Department of Health and Human Services gave a cool $6 million to Mathematica, a policy research organization widely used by the left, to do a study on abstinence education. In 1999, Mathematica began a limited evaluation of four early abstinence programs with 1,209 students and a control group in the same schools with 848 students. A follow-up was done five years later. Those little interviews cost us about $3,000 per student. Talk about government waste! The report is titled “Impact on Four Title V, Section 510, Abstinence Education Programs Final Report,” and it contains serious flaws:

  • The researchers ignored the established programs most recommended for the study and focused on four (out of more than 900 currently in use).
  • The four that were chosen were not representative and have since been improved.
  • There was no high school component.
  • The study was on children who were in abstinence programs as early as third grade (not the average age for abstinence education or sexual activity).
  • These students had no follow-up to the original abstinence message.

Nevertheless, this study has been widely reported as the definitive study on abstinence education.

There have been at least 15 scientific evaluations that show abstinence education programs to be highly effective in changing teen behavior and attitude toward sexual activity that have been published in the Journal of American Medical Association, the American Journal of Sociology and other respected sources. A complete review of these studies by Robert Rector and Christine Kim soon will be available from the Heritage Foundation.

Despite more than 40 years of failure, the “anything goes” crowd wants us to believe they are responsible for the recent drop in teen sexual activity, pregnancies and abortions and that the answer is simply to give teens more condoms and even more explicit sexual information.

This flies in the face of common sense.

These sex educators give out condoms and have children practice putting them on bananas and models. They also give out dental dams with instruction on how to perform oral sex. Teens are encouraged to experiment, read erotic books, play sex games, shower with a friend and masturbate in front of a partner.

These programs put additional pressure on teens who wish to remain abstinence, and the condom in the hand is left as a visual reminder – a kind of permission slip from an authority figure – that teens are expected to have sex.

When abstinence education goes away, this is all we will have left.

One thought on “Why Abstinence Education Is about to Go Away

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