Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Loses Steam
Lawmakers, Health Groups Question Value of Federal Abstinence-Only Program
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Teen Pregnancy Down continued...
But most of that drop occurred before 1998, when two separate federal
abstinence-only programs were started, said John Santelli, a professor of
population studies at Columbia University.
Margaret Blythe, MD, chairwoman of the committee on adolescents at the
American Academy of Pediatrics, said programs encouraging abstinence
"should obviously be encouraged."
"But abstinence should not be the only strategy discussed," she
Abstinence is the only foolproof way to avoid pregnancy and sexually
Conservatives maintain that abstinence-only education provides an
unambiguous message in the face of media and social pressures to have sex.
Stanley Weed, PhD, director of the Institute for Research and Evaluation,
pointed to evidence that he said shows abstinence education can be effective.
In one Virginia program, called "Reasons of the Heart," 9.2% of
students had sex for the first time within a year of participating in the
program. That's compared to 16.4% in a comparison group of teens who did not
participate, Weed said.
"Even though the figures will show that it does not work all the time,
it doesn't mean we should not be doing it," said Rep. Darrell Issa, a
Democrats on the committee suggested that the $1.3 billion Washington has
spent on abstinence-only programs over the last decade has been money
But Feinberg warned that studies looking at sex education programs of any
kind are riddled with uncertainty and ambiguity, including cultural
surroundings, how long students participate, and where students go when their
education is done.
"There's no dominant, clearly victorious magical strategy that will
solve all these problems," he said.