Thursday, August 24, 2017
Washington Post (Aug. 21, 2017): Abstinence-only education doesn't work. We're still funding it, by John Santelli
This year's federal budget includes $90 million in funding for abstinence-only education programs, and in July the Department of Health & Human Services announced that it will end funding for the Office of Adolescent Health’s evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention program in 2018. That program currently tests prevention programs based on the latest available science.
In the article, John Santelli, a professor of pediatrics and public health at Columbia University and former president of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, argues that there is no testing needed on abstinence-only education. It doesn't work, and there is ample research backing that assertion.
The Family & Youth Services Bureau of HHS now refers to abstinence-only education as "sexual risk avoidance," but a new name doesn't fix old problems. In fact, comprehensive evidence-based sex education helps young people remain abstinent, while abstinence-only education fails to achieve that goal. In a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control, the CDC found inconclusive evidence on the effectiveness of 23 abstinence-only education programs, while the 66 comprehensive sex-ed programs also studied showed positive effects on adolescent behavior, including the use of protection, the frequency of unprotected sexual activity, and pregnancy rates.
Santelli also argues that the goal of abstinence until marriage is increasingly unrealistic in a world where Americans are marrying later in life. The median age for first marriage of American females is now 26.5, and the median age for males is 30.
Since 1982, the federal government has spent over $2 billion on domestic abstinence-only education programs. By 2009, however, half of all states refused funding for abstinence-only programs in favor of comprehensive sex education. Following the 2010 Congressional elections, however, abstinence-only programs are seeing a nationwide resurgence.
It isn't just medical organizations and doctors that oppose abstinence-only sex education. Many churches also oppose the practice, including the United Church of Christ, and most American parents strongly support evidence-based sex education programs. It is up to Americans, Santelli says, to step up and tell Congress and President Trump that we want our tax dollars to fund comprehensive sex education programs that truly prepare our children for sexual activity.