Committee Blasts Abstinence Education Despite New Report
Special Report - April 24, 2008
A new report from The Heritage Foundation shows that abstinence-until-marriage (AUM) education is effective at helping teens delay sexual activity. Released April 22, the report, “Abstinence Education: Assessing the Evidence,” analyzed the findings from 21 studies of AUM programs, including 15 programs that focused primarily on teaching abstinence, and six virginity pledge programs. The report concluded that, “Overall, 16 of the 21 studies reported statistically significant positive results, such as delayed sexual initiation and reduced levels of early sexual activity, among youths who have received abstinence education.” According to the findings, 11 of the 15 programs that focused primarily on teaching abstinence showed “positive behavioral change” in students. Of the six virginity pledge programs, five had positive results, such as delayed or reduced sexual activity, STDs and teen pregnancy.
Despite evidence to the contrary, comprehensive sex education (CSE) advocates continue to attack AUM education and to push Congress to eliminate federal funding for these programs. On April 23, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform met to discuss the effectiveness of AUM programs and whether federal funding should continue. The committeewhich is chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), an outspoken critic of AUM educationheard mainly from CSE proponents. In fact, the committee’s panel of seven sex education “experts” consisted of six anti-AUM witnesses and only one witness in favor of AUM programs.
Rep. Waxman set the tone for the hearing during his opening comments when he described government funding of AUM programs as “bad economics” and argued that there is no evidence that AUM education works. “We’ve already spent over $1.3 billion on abstinence-only programs,” Rep. Waxman said in his statement. “The question we must ask today is whether we can justify pouring millions more into these programs when the weight of the evidence points elsewhere.”
During the four-hour hearing, CSE proponents blasted AUM education as ineffective, intolerant and a threat to basic human rights, and called on Congress to eliminate federal funding for AUM programs. For example, Dr. John Santelli, a senior fellow with the Guttmacher Institute, which is the research arm of Planned Parenthood, argued that AUM education is “out of touch” with trends in early sexual activity among young people today. Dr. Santellie also claimed that most of the recent decline in teen pregnancy and sexual activity among young people is due to increased contraceptive use. Another witness was Shelby Knox, a student and CSE advocate, who was the focus of a 2005 PBS documentary blasting AUM education called, “The Education of Shelby Knox.” Knox, who at age 15 took a virginity pledge at her local church in Texas, told the committee that AUM education promotes “misinformation, shame, guilt, and intolerance.”
Despite the chairman’s strong bias against AUM and a panel of witnesses heavily stacked in favor of CSE, abstinence education supporters held their own. Dr. Stan Weed, director of the Institute for Research and Evaluation, has conducted over 100 different studies of AUM programs. He told committee members: “Emerging evidence supports the notion that abstinence-centered strategies, if well-designed and implemented, can significantly and substantially reduce teen sexual initiation for periods of 1 to 2 years and thereby may positively impact the health of American adolescents.”
“CSE advocates continue to promote the lie that AUM education doesn’t work, despite the growing body of research that shows that authentic AUM programs are effective at helping teens delay sexual activity and avoid other risky behaviors,” said John Rustin, vice president and director of government relations for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “Congress should examine all the research and fund programs that effectively promote the only 100 percent effective way to avoid disease, unwed childbearing, and emotional heartache. To do anything less, is to sell our children short.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.