Abstinence-Only education is flawed in its approach to gay and lesbian students. Rather than set reasonable expectations on these youth regarding responsible sexuality, it tells them that there is no acceptable time in their lives in which they can have sex. Ever.

But Abstinence-Only education may also be flawed in its approach to heterosexual students. The appeal of these programs seems limited to those with a strong religious upbringing and seems to ignore those who don’t accept a religious based view of sexuality. Additionally, even those teens who seem to be reached by this educational model may not be truly adopting its ideas. A new report from a doctoral student at the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that “virginity pledges,” a tool championed by abstinence-only activists, may not be having results consistent with their claims.

Todd Zeranski reports:

Researcher Janet Rosenbaum studied the responses of 13,568 participants, ages 12 to 18, from a 1995 national survey and compared them with a follow-up study a year later.

She found that 52% of adolescents who made the pledge not to have sex until marriage in the 1995 survey denied making such a vow a year later.

Almost a third of nonvirgins in the first survey who took a virginity pledge disavowed previous sexual experience in the second survey.

The Concerned Women for America are outraged. In a press release that is devoid of any research, study, or anything other than conjecture, they said the following:

This new ‘finding’ by Harvard is misleading and deceptive. Those who have committed to saving sex for marriage are to be congratulated and encouraged,” said Dr. Janice Crouse, CWA’s Senior Fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute.

Crouse goes on to claim that because teen pregnancies and abortions are down that it is because of virginity pledges and abstinence-only education. Although abstinence-only education is predicated on the idea that information should be limited, Crouse claims:

“Abstinence education is the only effective tool for teaching young men and women the dangers of promiscuous behavior.”

And if her previous arguments are not adequately compelling, Crouse leaves us with the following evidence to support her position and discount that of the researcher:

“The Harvard report is wrong. I know numerous couples who have saved sex for their wedding night.”

Not everyone interprets the reseach the same as Crouse.

“The study adds to the growing body of evidence that virginity pledges have limited effectiveness in delaying sexual intercourse among adolescents and that we need to continue to look for strategies that work,” said Monica Rodriguez, a vice president at the nonprofit Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.

I believe that there is not conclusive evidence that abstinence-only eductation is effective or responsible. It is necessary that our elected officials and our school boards provide information that meets the goals of reducing teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections and that programs be based on results rather than religious ideology.

Until objective studies can be performed and the most effective and inclusive programs be established we should hesitate to rush to this educational model that is, at best, limited. Meanwhile, Rodriguez reports that the federal government is spending $178 million in the 2006 fiscal year, and the states are allocating an additional $37.5 million for abstinence education.

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