By John Jalsevac

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 23, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Abstinence education is "crucial to the physical and psycho-emotional well-being of the nation’s youth," concludes a detailed report released by the Heritage Foundation.

The report, "Abstinence Education: Assessing the Evidence", released yesterday, examines 21 studies of abstinence education programs, and concludes that statistics show that abstinence programs are effective in deterring teens from becoming sexually active, thereby reducing the risk of STDs, teen pregnancy, etc. The release of the report preceded today’s hearing of the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which discussed the efficacy of abstinence-only programs and whether or not funding for such programs should be extended.

Abstinence-only programs have received $1.3 billion in government funding over the last decade. Such programs, however, have come heavily under attack from social liberals, who argue that they put young people at risk by not giving a more "comprehensive" view of sexual health issues - that is, by not emphasizing enough contraception, abortion, and so-called "safe-sex." They have also been accused of promoting "gender stereotypes" and of being intolerant towards homosexuals. 

The chairman of the house committee, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, in his opening remarks today argued that abstinence-only programs are ineffective, and do not merit continued funding.

"I respect the commitment and intentions of people who run abstinence-only programs. They are doing it because they care about youth and want to counter the sexual messages that are all too pervasive in popular culture," he said. "But we will hear today from multiple experts that after more than a decade of huge government spending, the weight of the evidence doesn’t demonstrate abstinence only programs to be effective."

The Heritage Foundation report, authored by Christin C. Kim and Robert Rector, however, disagrees, and demonstrates that a majority of abstinence programs have reported a statistically significant decrease in levels of sexual activity for students who participate in them.

Of 15 sex-ed programs that primarily taught abstinence, 11 reported positive findings, while of 6 "virginity pledge" programs, 5 reported positive findings.

One abstinence program, Reasons of the Heart, reported that only 9.2 percent of virgins who went through the program were sexually active a year later, compared with 16.4 percent of those virginal teens who didn’t go through the program.

Another program, called Heritage Keepers, reported, "One year after the program, 14.5 percent of Heritage Keepers students had become sexually active compared with 26.5 percent of the comparison group," making students from the abstinence program about half as likely to become sexually active as those not in the program.

A third program, Best Friends, found that "Best Friends girls were nearly 6.5 times more likely to abstain from sexual activity" than those not in the program. It was also found out, "They were 2.4 times more likely to abstain from smoking, 8.1 times more likely to abstain from illegal drug use, and 1.9 times more likely to abstain from alcohol."

Abstinence programs, observes the report, are admirable in that they are not only about sexual behavior, but "also provide youths with valuable life and decision-making skills that lay the foundation for personal responsibility and developing healthy relationships and marriages later in life."

The report complains that while an enormous amount of effort is being put into teaching "comprehensive" sexual education, very little effort is put into teaching abstinence. "Today’s young people face strong peer pressure to engage in risky behavior and must navigate media and popular culture that endorse and even glamorize permissiveness and casual sex," write Kim and Rector. "Alarmingly, the government implicitly supports these messages by spending over $1 billion each year promoting contraception and safe-sex education - 12 times what it spends on abstinence education."

 "Although 80 percent of parents want schools to teach youths to abstain from sexual activity until they are in a committed adult romantic relationship nearing marriage - the core message of abstinence education - these parental values are rarely communicated in the classroom."

Instead, says the report, "In the classroom, the prevailing mentality often condones teen sexual activity as long as youths use contraceptives. Abstinence is usually mentioned only in passing, if at all."

The Heritage Foundation’s report concludes urging that, "When considering federal funding for abstinence education programs and reauthorization of Title V abstinence education programs, including maintaining the current definition of ‘abstinence education,’ lawmakers should consider all of the available empirical evidence."

To read the Heritage Foundation report, see:
http://www.heritage.org/Research/Welfare/bg2126es.cfm