Analysis of Waxman Anti-Abstinence Report Finds Significant Errors

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 7, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Analysis of Waxman Anti-Abstinence Report Finds Significant Errors Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 7, 2004

Washington, DC ( — An analysis of the report issued by a congressman attacking the effectiveness of abstinence education program finds it is "riddles with errors and inaccuracies."

Melissa Pardue, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, has written the most extensive study of the report crafted by Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat.

Waxman claims that increases by the Bush administration in federal funding for abstinence education programs is excessive. However, Pardue points out that, in 2002 alone, "the government spent $12 promoting contraception and condom use for every $1 it spent" on abstinence education.

According to Pardue’s report, 10 national evaluations show the effectiveness of abstinence education in reducing teen sexual activity and four were published in peer-reviewed journals.

For example, an April 2004 study published in Adolescent and Family Health found that abstinence was the major cause of declining birth and pregnancy rates among teen girls. It attributes 53 percent of the decline in pregnancy rates for 15-17 year olds to decreased
sexual activity — larger than the decline from contraception.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows a decrease in the number of teens who are sexually active from 1991 (54.1 percent of teens) to 2003 (46.7 percent of teens).

Pardue also says Waxman’s paper ignores significant evidence showing teenagers who engage in sexual activity having an increased risk of depression or attempted suicide.

Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health confirms these links.

The survey showed sexually active girls are more than three times as likely to be depressed than girls who are not sexually active. Boys were twice as likely.

Also, sexually active girls are nearly three times more likely to attempt suicide than girls who are not sexually active. Boys were a whopping eight times more likely to take their own lives.

"Representative Waxman’s report also falsely asserts that virginity pledge programs have no positive effects on teenagers," Pardue explains.

Yet, studies show teens who sign an abstinence pledge are less likely to have a teen pregnancy, less likely to be sexually active, less likely to have out of wedlock births, less often engage in unprotected sex, and will have half as many sexual partners. The spread of sexual disease is drastically reduced as a result.

Waxman has been a vocal critic of abstinence education and receives high marks from anti-abstinence groups. Of course his "report," which was repudiated by Health and Human Services officials, would call it ineffective, Pardue says.

"This report is sorely out of touch with the goals of parents and students in the United States," Pardue explains. "It makes misleading statements about abstinence education programs, and is therefore a tremendous disservice to millions of American teenagers."

Extensive information rebutting Waxman’s claims can be found at: