An AP story about the growing number of states walking away from federal abstinence funding is being hailed by some as a death knell for the abstinence movement. But many inside the pro-family camp see the wave of opposition for what it really is—a conspiracy to undermine a proven approach for delaying teen sexual activity. Sadly, at least 17 states are walking away from the Title V program for politically-charged reasons and turning a blind eye to the needs of America’s young people. The nation has already witnessed the fallout of these decisions in states like Massachusetts, where leaders rejected the funds and watched pregnancy rates quadruple in one year at Gloucester High School. Faced with a culture saturated in promiscuity and STDs, teenagers need to be equipped with the skills and abstinence education offers now more than ever.
Although abstinence education is relatively young with regard to evaluation, the body of evidence for effective programs is quickly growing. Just three months ago, the Heritage Foundation researched 15 abstinence education programs and an overwhelming majority (11) yielded positive results. In addition, researcher Dr. Stan Weed testified to a congressional committee that at least two programs had reduced the rates of sexual initiation by 45 to 50 percent! Unfortunately, opponents of abstinence continue to cite the Mathematica report that studied four small abstinence-centered programs. What researchers found is not that abstinence doesn’t work, but that girls and boys can’t receive a short course program during middle school, have no reinforcement of the material during high school years—when the behavioral risk is highest—and expect positive outcomes. Critics of abstinence cling to this one study and choose to ignore the positive results flowing from numerous other programs.
Tony Perkins heads the Family Research Council. This article is excerpted from the Washington Update that he compiles for the FRC.