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A new study released 14June05 by the US Department of Health and Human Services, and completed by a contract with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc, reveals that abstinence education works.

According to the interim report, teens who participated in abstinence programs had an increased awareness of the potential consequences of sexual activity before marriage, thought more highly of abstinent behaviors, and had less favorable opinions about sexual activity before marriage than did students who were not in abstinence programs.

The federal government only began funding abstinence education relatively recently, as part of the 1996 welfare reform.

The feds did something unusual when they funded abstinence education; a long-term study of the program was simultaneously authorized to track whether the programs made a positive difference in teenagers’ lives, as proponents expected.

A Department of HHS-funded study, started in 1998, tracked 2,310 students; 60 percent were assigned randomly to an abstinence-based program, and the rest were assigned to control groups.

The results are now in: Teens in abstinence programs are more likely to hold strong views in favor of sexual abstinence and against out-of-wedlock sexual relations than their counterparts who were not enrolled in abstinence-based programs. Those enrolled in the programs also were far more likely to understand the negative consequences of sex outside of marriage.

“Students who are in these [abstinence education] programs are recognizing that abstinence is a positive choice,” HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation Michael O’Grady said. “Abstinence education programs that help our young people address issues of healthy relationships, self-esteem, decision-making, and effective communications are important to keeping them healthy and safe.”

Leslee J. Unruh, president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse agrees. “The evidence from this and other studies is overwhelming; abstinence education results in self-confident, healthy kids,” said Leslee J. Unruh, president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse. “Every child in America deserves the best. When it comes to health instruction, the best is abstinence until marriage education.”

“While evidence of the effectiveness of abstinence education continues to mount,” Unruh concluded, “pro-promiscuity groups continue to push for more of the same failed contraceptive sex ed of the past. It does not matter to groups like SIECUS and Advocates for Youth that their version of sex education has never been scientifically proven to prevent unmarried pregnancy or STDs. On the contrary, abstinence education has been weighed, measured, and found exceptional.”

The study released today is part of a longitudinal study spanning five years. Youth participating in four abstinence education programs were tracked. An additional phase of this study examining how abstinence education affects behavior is expected next year.

The point of abstinence education is to provide a clear counterweight to a sex-infused popular culture and to influence teens’ attitudes for the better. Actual proof of its long-term effectiveness will come in the demographics of out-of-wedlock births and abortions.

[In their mission] of changing attitudes, abstinence education appears to be succeeding.

[The Abstinence Clearinghouse, 14June05; The Intelligencer, 06/28/05, 28June05]