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Should Congress Continue Funding Abstinence-only Education?

by Countable | 9.8.17

What’s the story?

We’ll tell you what it’s not: sex.

Between 1982 and 2017, Congress spent over $2 billion dollars on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs (AOUMs). But a new study suggests there may not be much abstinence to show for it.

Presently, funding for AOUMs is $85 million per year, and, as Forbes noted, "states are prohibited from using the funds to discuss contraception, except to focus on its failure rates."

Instead, NPR writes, AOUMs "advocate monogamous, heterosexual marriage as the only appropriate context for sexual intercourse and as the only certain way to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases."

However, according to a new study in the September issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, advocating abstinence often fails to prevent teens from having sex. In the abstract for the study, the researchers write:

"Adolescence is marked by the emergence of human sexuality, sexual identity, and the initiation of intimate relations; within this context, abstinence from sexual intercourse can be a healthy choice. However, programs that promote [AOUM] or sexual risk avoidance are scientifically and ethically problematic and—as such—have been widely rejected by medical and public health professionals."

Why does it matter?

The study – Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage: An Updated Review of U.S. Policies and Programs and Their Impact – confirms previous findings that AOUMs aren’t successful in reducing the rates of teen pregnancies or STDs. Research also shows that an abstinence-only approach doesn’t delay teens having sex, or keep them from engaging in risky sexual behavior.

According to the study:

"AOUM programs threaten fundamental human rights to health, information, and life. Young people need access to accurate and comprehensive sexual health information to protect their health and lives."

President Trump, however, seems to support AOUM programs. In July, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would cut more than $200 million in federal funds for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program.

And as John Santelli, one of the authors of the research study, wrote in the Washington Post, "buried among the many changes to health programs in this year’s federal budget was an important one for young people. Congress added new funding for [AOUMs], bringing the annual total to $90 million."

Conservative groups, NPR noted, "have long advocated abstinence education in public schools, pointing to a smaller number of studies that support abstinence-based approaches."

NPR reached out to one of these groups, and spoke to Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, for her reaction to the report.

"It seems we have swung so far left as to embrace promiscuity for our kids," Nance said in a statement. “And at the least, we are surrendering to the idea that teenagers will be sexually active. We, as a culture, can do better."

She added:

"Schools and public health advocates owe it to parents and people of faith to support the young girl or boy who wants to delay sexual behavior. Marriage, and delaying sex until at least adulthood, are good goals."

Santelli, a professor of pediatrics and public health at Columbia University, agrees that abstinence can be a "healthy choice for many young people." However, he feels that Congress’ funding of AOUM programs is misguided.

"Abstinence-only programs do not prepare young people for life — and they do a poor job of preparing them to avoid sex. My training in pediatrics and medical ethics suggests that we instead should give young people all the information they need to protect themselves and to promote lifelong healthy sexuality."

What do you think?

Congress will soon start debating its next budget. Currently, abstinence-only programs are getting $90 million.

Should the next budget include an increase or decrease of this funding? Or would you rather see the money go, as the study suggests, to providing young people "access to accurate and comprehensive sexual health information"? Hit the Take Action button and tell your reps what sex-ed should — or shouldn’t — look like. Then comment below.

—Josh Herman

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(Photo Credit: gilaxia / iStockphoto)

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Written by Countable

Leave a comment
(195)
  • I.Got.an.Idea...
    09/08/2017
    ···

    If empirical data demonstrates that this is not working, it should be defunded. I believe this is a special interest policy, that is in direct conflict with the nature of human biology, This appears to be wasted funding, much like the war on drugs, or any other program that Conservatives have pushed. These programs and ideologies, along with the trickle-down theory and the Christian Gay Conversion Therapy demonstrates that Conservatives are not scientists. Their hypothesis are always proven majorly incorrect and likely why they do not support real science. They do not have the mental capacity to comprehend science and abstract thought. Stop wasting any taxpayer funds on any Conservative idea or programs. The only people or organizations who benefit from these programs, are the Conservative contractors and businesses that steal the money from the taxpayers for their unethical programs. These programs appear to be a method for Republicans to extract billions of dollars via the Government from the taxpayers. Republicans secret to great wealth. Use other people's money.

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  • Ed
    09/08/2017
    ···

    Absolutely not. I grow weary of conservative preaching the sermon of "pork barrel" spending until the expense actually supports their social agenda. There is ample evidence that abstinence only programs are useless. I support funding of evidence-based sexual education that includes contraception and LGBT information

    Like (45)
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  • Michele
    09/08/2017
    ···

    Start funding actual reproductive health education. Every person is born with a fully functioning body. Teach kids about it. Stop treating our kids like they don't have a brain. They are smarter & more aware than we give them credit. They have access to more information than we could imagine on the internet. We need to get over our own hang ups and give them the truth & knowledge they need.

    Like (28)
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  • Roger
    09/08/2017
    ···

    Hi: I support the concept of abstinence only before marriage , but I question why the federal government is involved? Get out of our individual life's! Let family and church do the advising and training on this matter! Roger

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  • Joanne
    09/08/2017
    ···

    Nope. Abstinence only isn't working. Has never worked. It is an option. But should be taught with other options. Fund Planned Parenthood and birth control.

    Like (26)
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  • Carolyn
    09/08/2017
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    Well as the R's would say...is it cost effective? i. e., the school lunches debate. So, should that qualifier be applied here? Knowing teenagers will make their own choices, the abstinence option should be discussed in the context of choices, knowing costs of choices....not as an isolated peculiar moral code. VOTE : No funding

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  • Kodiwodi
    09/08/2017
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    Absolutely not. It's a huge waste of money, makes the teachers look like idiots, borders on church in school and just plain doesn't work. It's dangerous for our kids and is akin to teaching kids driving by giving them a stick shift and the keys and saying you figure it out.

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  • Abbi
    09/08/2017
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    Oh my god no!!! Have you ever tried stopping a horny teen from having sex?! They will find it! I'd rather they'd learn how NOT to get pregnant or how not to get STDs. Ask Sarah Palin's daughter if abstinence only worked for her! If you have kid prone to jumping out of planes teach them how to use a damn parachute! Otherwise they will try something else stupid like using a bungee cord to jump with or jumping in to a river cause his friends said he'd be okay! omg people, give the kids the info they need and trust them with it!! Otherwise they come to their own conclusions and I can tell you from experience that they will be wrong because they get info from their friends! I knew a boy that reasoned taking steroids would enlarge his penis! So yeah teach your kids the proper information before they get roofied, pregnant, infected, or having roid rage or overdosed on something! Let me tell you something, roid rage is terrifying.

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  • OlderNWiser
    04/26/2018
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    We have clear science showing that abstinence only does not work. My friends all claimed their children were 100% abstinent. I got contraceptives for my daughter and she was the only one who did not have a teen pregnancy. #45 says he can’t resist sexually assaulting women. How does he expect teens with raging hormones to be abstinent when he has never mastered fidelity – much less abstinence? Shameful hypocrisy.

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  • Marilyn
    09/08/2017
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    Having taught Health in a Utah high school, I can positively testify that abstinence only does not work. Being open and honest with teenagers is the only rational way to explain how their bodies work and the joys and cautions about being sexually active too young.

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  • Bonnie
    09/08/2017
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    Please stop supporting abstinence-only sexuality education. Much of the information in those curriculums is outdated and inaccurate There are very few options for evidence based teen pregnancy prevention curricula that are abstinence-only. America's youth deserve access to accurate and evidence-based sexuality education materials. Please stop with the abstinence-only nonsense and look for the evidence.

    Like (11)
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  • Robert
    09/08/2017
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    Funding this type of education is just plain creepy

    Like (8)
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  • Jeff
    09/08/2017
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    I thought republicans were against big government? This sounds like big government to me. Let's see: we don't need to regulate how we treat the environment; the disparity in taxation between the wealthy and the poor; the control corporations and lobbyists have over legislation; the shrinking of American rights; but we do need to regulate how people have sex. Sound about right? KUDOS! Representatives. You're doing a fine job. I'm guessing you have a pay raise on the agenda to congratulate yourselves on how great of a job you imagine you are doing?

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  • Jan
    09/08/2017
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    No! It's stupid and will never work. What are we teaching? Just girls? Not boys? Sexuality is an inherent part of being human. Teach responsibility. Teach common sense. KNOWLEDGE. This extremely ridiculous concept of abstinence is outdated. Humans will have sex at any AGE. Deal with it. This money could be used for school breakfast and lunches. That's logical.

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  • Patty
    09/08/2017
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    Defund abstinence only education. It isn't working and is wasting education dollars that could be better spent elsewhere. Leave morality teaching up to parents and faith groups, and let teachers teach science.

    Like (6)
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  • Joshua
    09/09/2017
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    NO !!!! IT DOESN'T WORK !!!! Just look at Pence state. They taught that bs and hiv increased , teen pregnancy hiked. They got helped, both declined. Pence cut out the help. Guess what happened, surprise, on the rise again. Kids need to be taught sex education in school. Get off the holier-than-thou soap box and teach kids what happens when a boys puts thier dicks in girls vaginas. Give them condoms and freaking teach them . Keep the bible banging religious freaks out of school and get sex education back in school. Obviously the bible banging parents don't teach thier own kids sex ed so now it's up to teachers. Abstinence doesn't work .IT NEVER WORKED AND IT NEVER WILL.

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  • IllWill
    09/08/2017
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    Abstinence-only education is a complete waste of money. All the credible evidence shows that it does not work. These programs should be defunded and serious teen pregnancy prevention programs should prevail. You can't stop teens from having sex. It's going to happen. What you need to do is make sure is that they have protected sex.

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  • Cheryl
    09/08/2017
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    Abstinence-only programs are a huge waste of money. Add some serious sex and relationship education, so that kids fully understand the consequences and risks - and let them learn about healthy relationships.

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  • NanceinNJ
    09/09/2017
    ···

    No. It's ineffective. And for those who oppose abortion, they need to accept realities that either you provide proper education on birth control and family planning or you accept that there will be unwanted pregnancies some of which will likely result in abortions.

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  • Brandon
    09/08/2017
    ···

    Nope, I don't know why we're still funding it. It just supports the idea that ignorance is bliss.

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