Abstinence Programs Don't Work

Programs that
focus exclusively on abstinence have not been shown to
affect teenager sexual behavior, although they are eligible
for tens of millions of dollars in federal grants,
according to a study released by a nonpartisan group
that seeks to reduce teen pregnancies.

''At present
there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence
program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to
abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners''
among teenagers, the study concluded.

The report, which
was based on a review of research into teenager sexual
behavior, was being released Wednesday by the nonpartisan
National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned

The study found
that while abstinence-only efforts appear to have little
positive impact, more comprehensive sex education programs
were having ''positive outcomes'' including teenagers'
''delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the
frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual
partners, and increasing condom or contraceptive use.''

''Two thirds of
the 48 comprehensive programs that supported both
abstinence and the use of condoms and contraceptives for
sexually active teens had positive behavior effect,''
said the report.

A spending bill
before Congress for the Department of Health and Human
Services would provide $141 million in assistance for
community-based abstinence-only sex education
programs, $4 million more than what President Bush had

The study,
conducted by Douglas Kirby, a senior research scientist at
ETR Associates, also sought to debunk what the report
called ''myths propagated by abstinence-only
advocates,'' including the claims that comprehensive
sex education promotes promiscuity, hastens the initiative
of sex or increases its frequency, and sends a confusing
message to adolescents.

None of these was
found to be accurate, Kirby wrote.

Instead, he
wrote, such programs improved teens' knowledge about the
risks and consequences of pregnancy and sexually transmitted
diseases and gave them greater ''confidence in their
ability to say 'no' to unwanted sex.''

The sponsors of
the study praised Kirby for his ''thorough research'' and
for being ''fair and evenhanded,'' but they also
acknowledged that ETR Associates developed and markets
several of the sex education curricula reviewed in the
report. Several of the previous studies that were
reviewed also were written by Kirby.

The report noted
that there continues to be ''too high levels of sexual
risk-taking among teens'' with 47% of all high schools
students reporting having sex at least once and 63%
saying they have engaged in sex by the spring semester
of their senior year.

''Many teenagers
do not use contraceptives carefully and consistently,''
said the report. About 40 of every 1,000 girls age 15 to 19
gave birth in 2005, the last year for which data was
available, the report said. (AP)

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