Abstinence (Education) Doesn’t Work

Conservatives promote abstinence education using a simple syllogism. Abstinence means not having sex. If you’re not having sex, you can’t get pregnant or become positive. Of course, that’s treating abstinence education as abstinence in fact. They’re assuming the education is 100% effective. Now it’s official — abstinence is a crock.

WASHINGTON, April 14 (AP) — Students who participated in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex as those who did not, according to a study ordered 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 about the same age as other students — 14.9 years, according to Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

The federal government spends about $176 million a year promoting abstinence until marriage. Critics have repeatedly said they did not believe the programs worked.

[Here’s the spin:]

Bush administration officials cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions from the study, saying the four programs were some of the very first established after Congress overhauled the nation’s welfare laws in 1996.

Officials said one lesson they learned from the study was that the abstinence message should be reinforced in subsequent years.

“This report confirms that these interventions are not like vaccines,” said Harry Wilson, associate commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the federal Administration for Children and Families. “You can’t expect one dose in middle school, or a small dose, to be protective all throughout the youth’s high school career.”