Could Abstinence Education Actually Work?

February 2, 2010 | NeW Staff

I nearly fell out of the car this morning when I heard Bill Bennett declare that The Washington Post was reporting that abstinence-only education might not be as detrimental as many have recently claimed, and in fact, it might actually work.  I had to see for myself.

Sure enough The Post is reporting that a “landmark study” at the University of Pennsylvania found that abstinence-only education actually has achieved its intended results.  Here’s what they found:

“Only about a third of sixth- and seventh-graders who completed an abstinence-focused program started having sex within the next two years, researchers found. Nearly half of the students who attended other classes, including ones that combined information about abstinence and contraception, became sexually active.”

This study could have serious implications for the future of abstinence education and funding for the programs.  This comes at a time when abstinence education has been criticized relentlessly by many, and as federal funding for these programs has been cut dramatically ($170 million in fact).  But the results from the study may change things:

” ‘No one study determines funding decisions, but the findings from the research paper suggest that this kind of project could be competitive for grants if there’s promise that it achieves the goal of teen pregnancy prevention,’ said Nicholas Papas, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services.”

Opponents of abstinence-only education are still reluctant to get behind these programs; however, for many supporters, this study is the ammunition they need to continue campaigning for abstinence-only programs.  
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