Pediatricians Group Approves Policy Opposing Abstinence Education

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 5, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pediatricians Group Approves Policy Opposing Abstinence Education Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 5, 2005

Chicago, IL ( — Despite its effectiveness in preventing teen pregnancies, a national pediatricians group has adopted a new policy opposing abstinence-only education. The American Academy of Pediatrics says teenagers should instead be taught about birth control and given access to the morning after pill, which sometimes causes an abortion.

"Even though there is great enthusiasm in some circles for abstinence-only interventions, the evidence does not support abstinence-only interventions as the best way to keep young people from unintended pregnancy," Dr. Jonathan Klein, chairman of the AAP committee that wrote the new guidelines, said.

Dr. S. Paige Hertweck, a pediatric obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Louisville, agreed with the new policy and, according to an Associated Press report, claims abstinence-only sexual education leads to higher teen pregnancy rates.

The new AAP policy removes a previous statement, adopted in 1998, saying "abstinence counseling is an important role for all pediatricians.”

The new guidelines encourage pediatricians to encourage teenagers to abstain from sex, but also educate them about various forms of birth control and the morning after pill.

Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services, disagrees and told AP that counseling only for abstinence is the best approach because it sends teens a consistent message.

The new AAP guidelines "to some extent confuse prevention and intervention,” Horn said.

Dr. Joe McIlhaney Jr., an obstetrician-gynecologist and the founder of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, also opposes the new AAP policy and told AP, "I don’t think it’s a smart move at all."

Despite claims from the pediatricians group to the contrary, studies seem to show that abstinence education is effective in reducing teen pregnancies and lowing the changes of engaging in other risky behavior.

A Texas A&M study conducted in 2003 found that, “When compared with the general teen population, teens who participate in abstinence education programs have significantly lower sexual activity rates."

An August 2002 study by Northwestern University Medical School researcher John S. Lyons, Ph.D., discovered that "youth have a clearer understanding of abstinence and of the health consequences of engaging in or refraining from sexual activity after participating in" an abstinence-only education program.

Meanwhile, a 2004 study by the Heritage Foundation tracked teenagers over four years and compared teens who took an abstinence pledge with those who didn’t.
The study found, after three separate periods of analysis spaced years apart, that pledgers were one-third less likely than non-pledgers to have sex before the age of 18.

The Heritage study also revealed that teens who kept their pledge to abstain from sexual relations were 50% less likely to have out-of-wedlock births than non-pledgers and were less likely to have a sexually transmitted disease.

A January 2004 Zogby International poll shows parents overwhelmingly support abstinence education for teenagers.

Out of the 1,004 parents surveyed across the nation, 96 percent said abstinence is best for teens. The vast majority of American parents want their children’s sex education classes to emphasize abstinence until marriage, according to poll, which was commissioned by Focus on the Family.

Only 39.9 percent thought that abstinence and contraception should be combined in a single class.

Related web sites:
Abstinence Clearinghouse –