Experts Testify On Failure of Abstinence-Based Education

Reuters notes how the Bush administration continues to back abstinence based education despite evidence it does not work:

Programs teaching U.S. schoolchildren to abstain from sex have not cut teen pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases or delayed the age at which sex begins, health groups told Congress on Wednesday.

The Bush administration, however, voiced continuing support for such programs during a hearing before a House of Representatives panel even as many Democrats called for cutting off federal money for so-called abstinence-only instruction.

“Vast sums of federal monies continue to be directed toward these programs. And, in fact, there is evidence to suggest that some of these programs are even harmful and have negative consequences by not providing adequate information for those teens who do become sexually active,” Dr. Margaret Blythe of the American Academy of Pediatrics told the committee.

These programs, backed by many social conservatives who oppose the teaching of contraception methods to teenagers in schools, have received about $1.3 billion in federal funds since the late 1990s. Currently, 17 of the 50 U.S. states refuse to accept federal funds for such programs.

Experts from the American Public Health Association and U.S. Institute of Medicine testified that scientific studies have not found that abstinence-only teaching works to cut pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases or the age when sexual activity begins.

The American Psychological Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also issued statements to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform criticizing the abstinence-only programs.

Comprehensive sex education programs should emphasize abstinence as the best way for a teenager to avoid pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease (STD), Blythe said.

“Those adolescents who choose to abstain from sexual intercourse should obviously be encouraged and supported in their decisions by their families, peers and communities. But abstinence should not be the only strategy that is discussed,” Blythe said.

I’ve previously noted reports on abstinence-based education in posts including here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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