heritage foundation ignores facts on abstinence education

With a name like the Heritage Foundation and a mission: “To formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense,” it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this group also goes to bat for abstinence-only education.

In April, they conducted an assessment of the effectiveness of 21 abstinence-only programs and declared:

“Opponents of abstinence education contend that these programs fail to influence teen sexual behavior. At this stage, the available evidence supports neither this assessment nor the wholesale dismissal of authentic abstinence education programs.”

Excuse me? I don’t just "contend" that these programs are a failure. I back up my contention with scientific research.

For example, a study published in the April issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health found that:

“Adolescents who received comprehensive sex education were significantly less likely to report teen pregnancy than those who received no formal sex education, whereas there was no significant effect of abstinence-only education.”

A different study conducted last fall by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found:

“At present, there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners. In addition, there is strong evidence from multiple randomized trials demonstrating that some abstinence programs chosen for evaluation because they were believed to be promising actually had no impact on teen sexual behavior.”

Need more proof? How about a study commissioned by congress to assess the effectiveness of  government funded abstinence-only programs that reported:

“Findings indicate that youth in the program group were no more likely than control group youth to have abstained from sex and, among those who reported having had sex, they had similar numbers of sexual partners and had initiated sex at the same mean age.”

I’m not sure what about these studies remains unclear to the people at the Heritage Foundation. Isn’t it about time they just threw in the towel and admitted that abstinence-only education has proven to be a failed experiment?


Posted in: Health, Sex & Relationships, The State of Sex Ed
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  • Katie

    Ugh, this is all so ridiculous to me. Clearly, telling kids to "just say no to sex" isn't working, just as it doesn't work for other "just say no" issues like drugs and alcohol. It's actually illegal for kids to drink or for anyone to use drugs, and yet most kids are bound to wind up experimenting. The same goes for sex; you can say no like a broken record all day long, but teens are curious and want to have fun, so they're going to try it. If you KNOW there are going to be teens having sex, isn't the best way to protect them to give them as much information on staying healthy so when they do do it they don't end up pregnant or with an STD? Honestly, some people just don't seem to understand this concept; TEENS ARE GOING TO HAVE SEX EVEN IF YOU TELL THEM NOT TO.

  • Chris

    This is ridiculous. I don't know why the folks at the Heritage Foundation insist on fooling themselves into thinking that abstinence-only sex ed. is even comparable to comprehensive sex ed. Most teenagers aren't the sort of people who, in the absence of accurate (or any) information, will go out and try to learn everything they can before they have sex.
    Usually, a teenager will make up his or her mind about waiting to have sex before receiving sex ed., and refusing to provide them with any infomation that would "morally corrupt" them is akin to giving them a gun, and telling them to play Russian Roulette. And this game is far worse, because the bullet won't kill them, it'll force them to live with the consequences of the choice they've made for the rest of their lives.

  • Elizabeth

    I started reading the studies reported by the Heritage Foundation. Granted, I didn't read all of them, but I read enough to get a general idea. The studies discussed only examined the rates of sexual activity in the groups that received the program vs those who didn't. An occasional study also examined teen pregnancy rates. But when they examined rates of sexual activity, they only looked at the short term, 3-6 months after the program. When you consider that most of these programs were taught to middle school or early high shool, there were plenty of "vulnerable" years left to track. Some studies even admitted that there was no long term difference compared to "control" groups.
    They never examined the rates of STIs in the students who received the program but who didn't abstain. And they never discussed the accuracy of the information provided by the programs.
    I'd rather teens receive accurate info and have honest discussions about sex, then to be scared shitless with lies by Christian "don't have sex 'til you're married" programs.
    When I have more time, I will examine the rest of the report and probably examine some of the original studies. I have a feeling they did a really shitty job of dealing with confounding variables.