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The U.S. House of Representatives officially approved a $10.82 million increase for abstinence education 24June [Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill].

Kristi Hayes [Director, Government Affairs, Abstinence Clearinghouse]: “It’s obvious that representatives in the House had their children in mind when they voted to approve an increase in funding to abstinence education. Abstinence education is what parents, whoever they are, want for their kids”…

This vote follows other good abstinence news. Last week, a new study reexamining data from the Adolescent Health Survey found Virginity Pledges to be helpful tools in deterring sexual activity. This study also pointed out serious and consequential flaws in an analysis of virginity pledges released in 4/05 by Peter Bearman & Hannah Bruckner who publicly defamed abstinence education.

Hayes: “Abstinence education continues to be proven effective. Is anyone really surprised? Abstinence education is common sense. Kids want relationships and security. They want meaning and purpose in their lives. Abstinence education teaches kids how they can have a healthy, happy future. That’s why it works.”

For more than a decade, abstinence educators have encouraged young people to abstain from sexual activity. As part of these programs, adolescents are encouraged to take a verbal or written pledge to abstain from sex until marriage.

Although these abstinence programs have received recent negative coverage, the new report released at the Welfare Research and Evaluation Conference hosted by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seeks to clarify previous findings. The new research validates what abstinence educators have known all along — abstinence pledges work.

The new research was conducted by Robert Rector and Dr. Kirk Johnson of Heritage Foundation. They stated, “Adolescents who take virginity pledges are less likely to have sexually transmitted diseases as young adults when compared to non-pledgers from similar backgrounds. Adolescents who take virginity pledges are also less likely to engage in risky sex behaviors such as alternate sexual practices than were non-pledgers. The more risky the behavior the less likely pledgers are to do it.”

Taking a virginity pledge is “strongly associated” with lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) — teen pledgers are 25 percent less likely to have STDs as young adults than non-pledging peers, Heritage Foundation researchers Rector and Johnson said in their reports. 

In addition, when pledgers and non-pledgers are compared on oral and anal sexual activity, data show that the pledgers are significantly less likely to engage in such practices, the Heritage researchers said. This remains true even when sexually active pledgers are compared with sexually active non-pledgers.

Rector and Johnson found serious flaws in the previous analysis of virginity pledgers published by Peter Bearman of Columbia University and Hannah Bruckner of Yale [4/05, Journal of Adolescent Health] according to data found in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a database funded by the federal government. Rector and Johnson used the same data base to replicate and re-examine the conclusions of the previous study.

For example, Bearman and Bruckner ignored 4 statistically significant measures of sexually transmitted disease, all of which showed that pledgers were far less likely to have an STD than non-pledgers. The researchers instead chose to report a fifth measure, which showed the same result, but was not significant.  Tthe Bearman study, based on just one STD measure, said the pledgers’ STD rate “does not differ” from that of nonpledgers.

However, the Heritage researchers said, when STD rates were analyzed in five ways, pledgers had significantly lower STD rates in four areas and had a rate that was almost significantly lower in the fifth area.

“Several discrepancies were immediately apparent,” stated Rector. “For starters, the Add Health data clearly reveal that virginity pledgers are less likely to engage in alternative sexual practices (sex other than vaginal intercourse) when compared to non-pledgers. Bearman and Bruckner inferred the opposite by looking at a microscopic subset which included only 21 respondents out of a total sample of 14,116. Bearman and Bruckner used junk science to unfairly attack abstinence education.”

Rector and Johnson’s report found that although many years pass between the adolescence when a pledge is taken and marriage, taking a virginity pledge is associated with a broad array of positive outcomes.

When compared to similar non-pledgers, adolescent virginity pledgers have far fewer sex partners overall; pledgers are less likely to engage in sex while in high school and while not married as a young adult; less likely to experience teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock birth; less likely to have children in their teen and young adult years; less likely to engage in alternate sexual activities and outercourse; and less likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD/STI).

“Premarital sexual activity is a problem because it results in pregnancy, STD, broken hearts, and more,” concluded Unruh. “Virginity pledges, as one component of holistic abstinence education, are proven to be effective where contraceptive sex education has failed America’s teens…Once again, the abstinence education, wanted by parents everywhere, is proven healthy and effective,” commented Leslee Unruh, president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse.

[The Heritage Fdn, 14June05,; Cheryl Wetzstein, The Washington Times, 14June05; Medical Institute Advisory, 24June05; Abstinence Clearinghouse Email Update, 24June05; News Release, Abstinence Clearinghouse, AL Physicians For Life, Inc., 15June05]

Related: Adolescent Virginity Pledges, Condom Use, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Among Young Adults, by Robert Rector and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., Conference Paper 14June05, 
Adolescent Virginity Pledges and Risky Sexual Behaviors, by Robert Rector and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D,.Conference Paper 14June05,