by Steven Ertelt
April 17, 2007
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Leading pro-life advocates say that a new study that attacks the effectiveness of abstinence education programs is off the mark. The groups say that the study tracked less than one percent of the 700 abstinence programs that receive federal funding and makes erroneous generalizations.
The Department of Health and Human Services has released a report by Mathematica Policy Research on a handful of abstinence programs.
They study claims that changes must be made to select abstinence programs to make them more effective because students who took part were just as likely to have sex as those who did not.
The study is being used by critics to say that the federal government should reduce the approximately $176 million it spends annually on abstinence education.
"While liberal leaders are salivating at the chance to replace abstinence funding with more dollars for Planned Parenthood’s empire, the research has obvious limitations," Family Research Council president Tony Perkins told LifeNews.com.
"The four programs that Mathematica evaluated (beginning in 1999) have already been revised and improved, and they are by no means representative of abstinence education as a whole," he explained.
"They also included no high school component–so one logical conclusion is that to achieve the greatest effectiveness, programs must be intensive and long-term, so that the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to reject sex before marriage are constantly reinforced–particularly in the pivotal high school years," he said.
Bush administration officials agreed with that assessment.
Harry Wilson, the commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the Administration for Children and Families told AP that the abstinence message has to be reinforced in later teen years to be effective.
"This report confirms that these interventions are not like vaccines. You can’t expect one dose in middle school, or a small dose, to be protective all throughout the youth’s high school career," he said.
Meanwhile, Chris Trenholm, a senior researcher at Mathematica who oversaw the study, admitted that it contradicted one claims anti-abstinence education groups make.
"The second part of the story that I think is equally important is that we find no evidence that the programs increased the rate of unprotected sex," he told AP.
Ultimately, Perkins told LifeNews.com that abstinence education programs work and that groups which sponsor them have striven to improve them.
"A recent HHS-sponsored conference in Baltimore unveiled evidence from more than two dozen other studies that abstinence programs are producing positive outcomes for youth," Perkins concluded.
"For every study that disparages the abstinence approach, there are many others that point to its success and suggest that effective, long-term programs should be given more funding–not less," he said.
The latest study involved 2057 students from Miami, Florida; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Powhatan, Virginia; and Clarksdale, Mississippi.