California Governor Schwarzenegger, Jack O’Connell Should Back Abstinence

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 10, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Governor Schwarzenegger, Jack O’Connell Should Back Abstinence

by Randy Thomasson
February 10, 2010 Note: Randy Thomasson is the president of SaveCalifornia, a leading pro-family, pro-child organization.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell should abandon their prohibition of abstinence-only education in light of a landmark study showing that abstinence education protects two-thirds of young teens from STDs and unwed pregnancies.

It’s time to respect science and employ abstinence education to help save teens and pre-teens from sexually transmitted diseases that are at unacceptable levels. In light of these facts, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jack O’Connell should immediately drop their out-of-date prohibition of abstinence-only education in California public schools.

Children are not sexual animals, but are precious human beings created in the image of God with the ability to think and make healthy choices.

Policymakers need to get beyond their own opinions and biases and recognize empirical research showing abstinence education plays a very valuable role in helping young people stay healthy.

Angela Griffiths, a professional health educator in the San Francisco Bay Area, says, "We’ve always known that quality, whole-person health education is the most effective way to promote all healthy behaviors, including pregnancy prevention."

The problem has been blanketly labeling programs without looking at what they really promote. This study clears up numerous fallacies about the relative effectiveness of abstinence-only, safer-sex-only, or combining the two approaches," she adds.

Luis Galdamez, chairman of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse and executive director of La Familia Hispana in Southern California, also says "Abstinence has always worked, and this new study confirms what we have been saying and teaching for years."

"Children deserve the best," Galdamez says. "We should teach them the truth, not lies. Abstinence-until-marriage education is the only 100% way to avoid teen pregnancy, STDs, and many other unwanted consequences. This landmark new study, along with the many other studies that had gone unnoticed by the media, should prompt President Obama and Congress to make a real change and restore funding for Community-Based Abstinence Education and Abstinence Education under Title V."

Not only should federal abstinence funding be restored, but the Schwarzenegger administration and the California Department of Education should embrace, rather than attack, abstinence education.

Sadly, for the last several years, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and the Governor’s teen pregnancy program have prohibited abstinence-only education in California public schools. In addition, as of July 1, California’s teen pregnancy prevention program will teach risky, pro-condom education to children as young as kindergarten, yet completely prohibit abstinence education.

The need to protect teens from sexually transmitted diseases is critical. Years of condom education in public schools has contributed to the skyrocketing levels of chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, HPV and HIV among teens and young adults.

The first peer-reviewed study proving the effectiveness of abstinence education, "Effectiveness of an Abstinence-Only HIV/Sexually Transmitted Disease Risk-Reduction Intervention for Young African-American Adolescents," was published February 1, 2010 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

This multi-year study was compiled and released by Drs. John and Loretta Jemmott from the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Geoffrey Fong from the University of Waterloo and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research in Waterloo, Ontario.

After receiving eight hours of abstinence-only education teaching pubescent youth to wait for sex, 66.5% of the sixth and seventh grade students avoided sexual intercourse for two years following the instruction.

By comparison, nearly half of the students from predominately African-American middle schools those who received either an eight- or 12-hour class combining both abstinence education and safe sex said they had sex within the two-year period.

The study is the first to evaluate an abstinence program using a carefully designed approach comparing it with several alternative strategies and following subjects for an extended period of time, considered the kind of study that produces the highest level of scientific evidence.

The results demonstrating the efficacy of abstinence-only instruction led Dr. John B. Jemmott, the study’s head researcher, to say, "I think we’ve written off abstinence-only education without looking closely at the nature of the evidence."

"This new study is game-changing," said Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "For the first time, there is strong evidence that an abstinence-only intervention can help very young teens delay sex."

There is no substantial argument to support the existing bias against abstinence education. If we genuinely care about children, we must protect them with scientifically accurate, medically-based information. This study confirms that abstinence education can protect most children from STDs and unwed pregnancies if we get to them early.

The study followed 662 students from four public middle schools that serve low-income African American communities in a city in northeastern U.S. Recruited between September 2001 and March 2002, the students were randomly selected by a computer to either take an 8-hour abstinence-only intervention, 8-hour safer sex-only intervention, 8-hour comprehensive intervention, a 12-hour comprehensive intervention, or an 8-hour health promotion control intervention.

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