Saturday, April 14, 2007

Abstinence Education Ineffective

Yesterday, buried on a Friday, Congress released a commissioned study on the effectiveness of abstinence education. The report is very embarrassing for xtian fundamentalists who have been selling this snake oil for years. Not only is abstinence education ineffective at preventing sex, it also has no effect on the number of sexual partners. From the article:

WASHINGTON - Students who took part 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 that were reviewed reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not attend the classes. And they first had sex at about the same age as other students — 14.9 years, according to Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

Not surprisingly, the Bush administration quickly released excuses:

However, Bush administration officials cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions from the study. They said the four programs reviewed — among several hundred across the nation — 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 is that the abstinence message should be reinforced in subsequent years to truly affect behavior.

Right, if something isn't working, give it more time, at the expense of the tax-payer. It's bound to work at some point in the future. That's standard Bush Crime Family talk. It's the same lie they sell about Iraq. Thank god there are other voices out there that this new congress may listen to:

"Members of Congress need to listen to what the evidence tells us," said William Smith, vice president for public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, which promotes comprehensive sex education.

"This report should give a clear signal to members of Congress that the program should be changed to support programs that work, or it should end when it expires at the end of June," Smith said.

Smith also said he didn't have trouble making broader generalizations about abstinence programs based on the four reviewed because "this was supposed to be their all-star lineup."

Reproductive Health Reality Check has an interesting post on the study. They link to Mathematica's report (pdf file). The Executive Summary of the report is a good read. From it:
The enactment of Title V, Section 510 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 significantly increased the funding and prominence of abstinence education as an approach to promote sexual abstinence and healthy teen behavior. Since fiscal year 1998, the Title V, Section 510 program has allocated $50 million annually in federal funding for programs that teach abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage as the expected standard for school-age children. Under the matching block grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services (DHHS), states must match this federal funding at 75 percent, resulting in a total of $87.5 million annually for Title V, Section 510 abstinence education programs. All programs receiving Title V, Section 510 abstinence education funding must comply with the "A-H" definition of abstinence education (Table 1).
It started in 97. So that's: ($50m * 11) + ($87.5 * 11) = 1512.5

Over $1.5 BILLION wasted on abstinence training that doesn't work! Tax and spend liberals indeed.

Below are the first two figures from the executive summary: (click to expand)
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