Abstinence only programs aren't effective – Vote Obama


The United States continues to have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world—almost twice as high as those of England, Wales and Canada, and eight times as high as those of the Netherlands and Japan.  Every year, roughly nine million new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) occur among teens and young adults in the United States. Compared with rates among teens in Canada and Western Europe, rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia among U.S. teens are extremely high.

According to the US National Vital Statistics Reports, the most recently reported teen pregnancy rate from 2004 is 72.2 per 1000 teens or 7.2 percent.

Bush expanded community-based abstinence education during his term, including a $28 million budget increase for 2009 in an effort to “Teach both abstinence and contraception to teens.”

Obama concurred in April when he said: “We want to make sure that, even as we are teaching responsible sexuality and we are teaching abstinence to children, that we are also making sure that they’ve got enough understanding about contraception.”

Republican John McCain, whose running mate Sarah Palin disclosed that her unmarried 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, has opposed proposals to spend federal money on teen-pregnancy prevention programs.

In Senate votes, McCain has opposed some proposals to pay for teen-pregnancy prevention programs. In 2006, McCain joined fellow Republicans in voting against a Senate Democratic proposal to send $100 million to communities for teen-pregnancy prevention programs that would have included sex education about contraceptives.

In 2005, McCain opposed a Senate Democratic proposal that would have spent tens of millions of dollars to pay for pregnancy prevention programs other than abstinence-only education, including education on emergency contraception such as the morning-after pill. The bill also would have required insurance companies that cover Viagra to also pay for prescription contraception.

pregnant teen Hodges: Dealing with abstinence-only programs
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential pick, backs abstinence-only sex education in schools. Palin revealed that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant. Critics point to her daughter’s predicament as proof this type of education does not work.

Proponents of abstinence-only are against comprehensive sex education mainly because they believe that such programs subtly encourage children to engage in sexual intercourse. On the other hand, opponents point out that federal government studies have shown students in abstinence-only programs are just as likely to have sex as those not enrolled in such programs.

Abstinence-only sexuality programs don’t work. There is little evidence that teens who participate in abstinence-only programs abstain from intercourse longer than others. It is known, however that when they do become sexually active, teens who received abstinence-only education often fail to use condoms or other contraceptives. In fact, 88 percent of students who pledged virginity in middle school and high school still engage in premarital sex. The students who break this pledge are less likely to use contraception at first intercourse, and they have similar rates of sexually transmitted infections as non-pledgers (Bearman and Brueckner, 2001; Walters, 2005).

Only 26 states, including Michigan, accept these grants, which must be matched by state funds. Birth rates among 15- to 19-year-olds have plunged since 1991 when it was 61.8 births per 1,000. In 2006, the rate was 41.9, even after a slight rise in 2005.

Decline in teenage pregnancy rates precedes abstinence only until marriage funding
To date no NO valuation supports the effectiveness of abstinence only programs. None the less abstinence only programs that censor information on contraception has increased over 3,000% since 1996 reaching $83 million by 2000. And, states have enacted 34 legislative promoting or mandating abstinence only until marriage programming since 1998.

Using data from a 2002 national survey, researchers found that among more than 1,700 unmarried, heterosexual teens between 15 and 19 years old, those who’d received comprehensive sex ed in school were 60 percent less likely to have been pregnant or gotten someone pregnant than teens who’d had no formal sex education.

The study found that teens who’d been through abstinence-only programs were less likely than those who’d received no sex ed to have been pregnant. However, the difference was not significant in statistical terms, which means the finding could have been due to chance.

In addition, there was no evidence that comprehensive sex education increased the likelihood of teen sex or boosted rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) — a concern of people who oppose teaching birth control in schools.

Lead researcher Pamela K. Kohler, of the Center for AIDS and STD at the University of Washington in Seattle told Reuters Health the study “also solidly debunks the myth that teens who learn about birth control are more likely to have sex.” Source: Comprehensive sex ed may cut teen pregnancies

Currently, the federal government champions the abstinence-only approach, giving around $170 million each year to states and community groups to teach kids to say no to sex. This funding precludes mention of birth control and condoms, unless it is to emphasize their failure rates.

As Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.—director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania—said in his article, “Blind faith on sex-ed approach puts kids at risk” – “Actually, you cannot expect abstinence-only sex ed to be protective, effective or in any way useful at all. Ever. Period. Enough already. It’s time to pull the plug on abstinence-only sex education. There are too many lives at stake to put up with a reproductive-health policy that is willing to kill and disable our kids out of an allegiance to a blind faith in something that does not work.”

Abstinence students still having sex – Study tracked 2,057 young people in government-funded programs –  April. 16, 2007 – Students who participated in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex a few years later as those who did not, according to a long-awaited study mandated by Congress.

Also, those who attended one of the four abstinence classes reviewed reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not attend the classes, and they first had sex at about the same age as their control group counterparts — 14.9 years, according to Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

1. Ventura SJ, Mosher WD, Curtin SC, Abma JC, Henshaw S. Trends in pregnancies and pregnancy rates by outcome: estimates for the United States, 1976-96. Vital Health Stat 2000;21(56):1-49.
2. The Public Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. (P.L. 104-193, August 22, 1996.)
3. Abstinence only sex education is risky and ineffective Mike Stobbe, AP Medical Writer, wrote an article that reported a 3% increase in the teen birth rate—the first increase in 14 years.
4. Study: Birth control education helps reduce pregnancies in high school kids (March. 24, 2008)

Facts on Sex Education in the United States 12/2006

Sex Education Policy
(1) Currently, 35 states mandate either sex education or education about HIV/AIDS and other STIs, but their laws tend to be very general. Policies specifying the content of sex education are typically set at the local level.

Source: Guttmacher Institute, Sex and STD/HIV education, State Policies in Brief, November 2006, , accessed Nov. 28, 2006.

(2) More than two out of three public school districts have a policy to teach sex education. The remaining one-third of districts leave policy decisions up to individual schools or teachers.

Source: Landry DJ et al, Abstinence promotion and the provision of information about contraception in public school district sexuality education policies, Family Planning Perspectives, 1999, 31(6):280–286.

(3) Eighty-six percent of the public school districts that have a policy to teach sex education require that abstinence be promoted. Some 35% require abstinence to be taught as the only option for unmarried people and either prohibit the discussion of contraception altogether or limit discussion to its ineffectiveness. The other 51% have a policy to teach abstinence as the preferred option for teens and permit discussion of contraception as an effective means of preventing pregnancy and STIs. ibid

(4) More than half of the districts in the South with a policy to teach sex education have an abstinence-only policy, compared with one in five of such districts in the Northeast. ibid

Government Support of Abstinence-Only Education
(1) There are three federal programs dedicated to funding restrictive abstinence-only education: Section 510 of the Social Security Act, the Adolescent Family Life Act’s teen pregnancy prevention component and Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE). The total funding for these programs is $176 million for FY 2006.
Source:(Unpublished tabulations based on annual federal government appropriations for abstinence-only sex education.)

teen mom(2) Federal law establishes a stringent eight-point definition of “abstinence-only education” that requires programs to teach that sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong and harmful—for people of any age. The law also prohibits programs from advocating contraceptive use or discussing contraceptive methods except to emphasize their failure rates.

Source: Dailard C, Abstinence promotion and teen family planning: the misguided drive for equal funding, The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, 2002, 5(1):1–3; and Dailard C, Fueled by campaign promises, drive intensifies to boost abstinence-only education funds, The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, 2000, 3(2):1–2 & 12.

(3) Federal guidelines now define sexual activity to include any behavior between two people that may be sexually stimulating, which could be interpreted as including even kissing or hand-holding.

Source: Dailard C, Legislating against arousal: the growing divide between federal policy and teenage sexual behavior, Guttmacher Policy Review, 2006, 9(3):12–16.

(4) New federal restrictions have been expanded to target adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12 and 29.

Source: Dailard C, New Bush Administration policy promotes abstinence until marriage among people in their 20s, Guttmacher Policy Review, 2006, 9(4):23.

(5) There is currently no federal program dedicated to supporting comprehensive sex education that teaches young people about both abstinence and contraception.
Source: Dailard C, 2002, op. cit. (see reference 26); and Dailard C, Sex education: politicians, parents, teachers and teens, The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, 2001, 4(1):9–12.

(6) Despite years of evaluation in this area, there is no evidence to date that abstinence-only education delays teen sexual activity. Moreover, recent research shows that abstinence-only strategies may deter contraceptive use among sexually active teens, increasing their risk of unintended pregnancy and STIs.

Source: Kirby D, Emerging Answers: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy, Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2001; Bearman PS and Bruckner H, Promising the future: virginity pledges and first intercourse, American Journal of Sociology, 2001, 106(4):859–912; Bruckner H and Bearman PS, After the promise: the STI consequences of adolescent virginity pledges, Journal of Adolescent Health, 2005, 36(4):271–278.

(6) Evidence shows that comprehensive sex education programs that provide information about both abstinence and contraception can help delay the onset of sexual activity among teens, reduce their number of sexual partners and increase contraceptive use when they become sexually active. These findings were underscored in “Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior,” issued by former Surgeon General David Satcher in June 2001.

Source: Dailard C, Abstinence promotion and teen family planning: the misguided drive for equal funding, The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, 2002, 5(1):1–3; and Dailard C, Fueled by campaign promises, drive intensifies to boost abstinence-only education funds, The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, 2000, 3(2):1–2 & 12.

Source: Kirby D, Emerging Answers: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy, Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2001; Bearman PS and Bruckner H, Promising the future: virginity pledges and first intercourse, American Journal of Sociology, 2001, 106(4):859–912; Bruckner H and Bearman PS, After the promise: the STI consequences of adolescent virginity pledges, Journal of Adolescent Health, 2005, 36(4):271–278.

More than nine in 10 teachers believe that students should be taught about contraception, but one in four are prohibited from doing so.

One in five teachers believe that restrictions on sex education are preventing them from meeting their students’ needs.

Eighty-two percent of adults support comprehensive sex education that teaches students about both abstinence and other methods of preventing pregnancy and STIs.

Only one-third of adults surveyed support abstinence only education, while half oppose the abstinence-only approach.

Reference: PDF file Facts on Sex Education In the United States

pregnant teenPalin backed abstinence only programs in her 2006 gubernatorial race. And today, McCain and Palin’s stands on support for government funded abstinence only until marriage programing have not changed, even though these programs have proven to be ineffectual.  Before entering the voting booth please remember that McCain and Palin are prepared to continue to deny American teens the comprehensive sex education that they so obviously need, and vote Obama – vote for change.


  1. I’ve been contemplating writing up what I found in my research regarding the “not until marriage pledge” programs but haven’t had the time. The pregnancy rates and STD rates were higher than those of teens who did have sex education programs and who did not take pledges. However, my blogs have been so heavily spammed by religious people spewing nonsense that I don’t feel motivated to make the time to do so.

  2. I am with you completely on this. All of McCain/Palin’s views on reproductive health have been appalling. From birth control to sex education to reproductive rights. I was horrified in the last debate that McCain dismissed women’s health completely out of hand when he talked about abortions. And didn’t Palin cut funding for programs in Alaska to help unwed teenage mothers? Don’t teach them about birth control, don’t give them any choices about their pregnancy, and then don’t help them afterwards. I’m getting angry just thinking about it.

    As for sex ed. I went to high school in a very conservative area. We had abstinence only sex ed (one guy actually stood up and said condoms were completely useless and you might as well not bother with them – totally irresponsible). Not surprisingly, we had a HUGE number of girls who fell pregnant before they graduated.

  3. It’s hard to take what anti-abortionists say about adoption seriously either. They are organized, they have done lots of fundraising and what do they spend their money on?

    They spend it on campaigning against abortion and marketing t-shirts depicting fetuses, rather than using it to help prevent unwanted pregnancy or to help the women, who do bear children that require adoption.

    It’s no exaggeration to say that I have ZERO respect for the behaviors of anti-abortionists. I consider them to be a socially destructive retrogressive force.

  4. My recent abstinence only program has been quite effective…then, it hasn’t exactly been voluntary…I really need to get out and meet women more….

    Seriously, what’s really ironic is that so many in the “pro-life” movement are also anti-birth control–or ironic, at least, if you take them at their word that their concern is for saving unborn lives rather than controlling sexuality. If someone wanted to increase the number of unplanned pregnancies that will lead to abortions (legal or not), it would be hard to come up with a better plan than preventing schools from telling kids about birth control.

  5. I really think in this day and age where sex once can mean AIDS and death this kind of education is irresponsible. We are playing Russian Roulette with the lives of our children. You cannot moralize a biological imperative in this way.
    Now that the stats are out and it clear that abstinence only education does not work, to continue on this path is nothing more than hubris. Teaching sex education need not promote promiscuity and since we cannot stop them from having sex the least that we can do is make sure that they are protected when they are doing so.

  6. It’s really a shame to see such a problem in this country, considering the access people have here to so many birth control options!
    I’m really, truly, honestly hoping for some serious change. Things can NOT go on as they have. They just can’t.

  7. @Kathleen
    Thanks for reading and commenting. It certainly sounds like we are on the same page. IMO not providing full and factual information about pregnancy, contraception and STDs to teens is unconscionable.

  8. I think an emphasis on both is the only sane way to approach the problem. For heaven sakes – abstinence only isn’t going to work, as you point out. The result is sick teens, more drugs to eradicate STD’s, and more money into the pockets of abortion clinics (and yes, they are businesses).

    Look at the HIV problem in women in Africa. They are suffering because they either have no access to, or for cultural reasons avoid condom use.

    Your cited study, showing that teens who learn abstinence only are unlikely to use contraceptives or condoms has far reaching health implications.

    Great article TT, and “hello” again, by the way.

  9. I’m no “pro” and this my personal blog gets very little attention from me. It needs a lot of work but I haven’t had the time to do it. If you want a better blog example then I suggest that you check out my blogging tips blog http://onecoolsite.wordpress.com

    I also believe that all life is sacred. Like you I’m aware of the fact that in teens it’s unwanted pregnancy that leads to abortion, and that in the US it’s between the ages of 15 – 19 years that we see the most unwanted pregnancies occurring. As you say it is that reality it not being addressed.

    IMO it’s appalling that American parents of these teens would choose only to support teaching abstinence to them and then pat themselves on the back for being “righteous” in a religious sense. Their failure to provide their own children with comprehensive sex education, and to demand that their taxes are directed towards providing comprehensive sex education in the schools, including contraception and protection from STDs, is IMO unconscionable.

  10. @Ben Spak
    I do believe that my blog post title is relevant to the contents of the post. I have not checked the site you indicated and I have removed the link from your comment.

    Either you do support comprehensive sex educational programs that include teaching abstinence, as well as, providing information on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases or, you don’t.

    McCain and Palin support abstinence only programming ONLY.

    Obama supports comprehensive sex educational programs that include teaching abstinence, as well as, providing information on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.

    You managed to blah, blah, blah without saying where you stand. Hmmm … I wonder why that is?

  11. I just stop to see how a pro build his blog. I think I’m gona ghet red of my ranking widgets and instead put in the share this gizmo.
    I also found your post interesting As a buddhist i believe all life is sacred. I also believe abortions are not a problem but a consequence of the problem – which nobody wants to address. And last but not least being a man i believe it is not my business to tell a woman what to do with her body.
    Thanx again for putting up with my lack of technical abilities!
    Be loved!

  12. Hahah I love the title. Even if it wasn’t relevant to the content I’d still love it, but there you go making the post all relevant and whatnot lol

    BTW have you checked out Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle?

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