That's the headline in the Washington Post. Here's the lead...
Sex education classes that focus on encouraging children to remain abstinent can persuade a significant proportion to delay sexual activity, researchers reported Monday in a landmark study that could have major implications for U.S. efforts to protect young people against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
And here's how right-wing Christian douchebags are spinning the results of this study:
Leslee Unruh of the Abstinence Clearinghouse sees the study as vindication of the abstinence-only message—one which has been under fire since the Clinton administration, when Congress passed a law providing funding for abstinence education.
And now—and no one could've predicted—Bill Donohue's Catholic League is calling for the complete de-funding of safe-sex programs in favor of abstinence-only sex ed. But here's what the Jesus crowd—along with the headline writers and headline scanners—are glossing over: this study didn't find the kind of Jesus-hates-premarital-sex abstinence-only sex education backed by groups like Abstinence Clearinghouse to be effective. The study focused African American 6th and 7th graders and found that a secular "abstinence-only" sex ed approach that didn't moralize but instead focused on empowering these very young children—12-14 year olds—could delay the onset of premarital sexual activity. Unlike the abstinence-only sex ed programs that the Bush administration poured hundreds of millions of dollars into over the last decade—again, the programs the Abstinence Clearinghouse backs—this study's abstinence-only model didn't discourage condom use or present kids with false information about the risks of sexual activity. NYT:
...the abstinence-only classes in the Jemmott study centered on people with an average age of 12 and that unlike the federally supported abstinence programs now in use, did not advocate abstinence until marriage. The classes also did not portray sex negatively or suggest that condoms are ineffective, and contained only medically accurate information.
The model in the study, "was not truly abstinence only because the effect was to significantly delay the onset of nonmarital sex," Kim Wallen, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroendocrinology at Emory University, wrote in an email. "This would be seen as a failure in relation to the discredited AO programs that the Bush administration promoted. Delaying the onset of sex was not the goal of these programs, instead it was 'no sex till married,' something that this program did not have as a goal."
The religious right's brand of abstinence-only sex ed has lead to a rise in teen pregnancies, and other studies of moralistic/moralizing abstinence-only sex ed have found that those programs may delay the onset of sexual activity by a few months but that kids who've been through medically inaccurate AO are less likely to use birth control—which they were told was ineffective—and at greater risk of pregnancy and disease than kids that had comprehensive sex education. Indeed, a CDC panel that reviewed the results of 62 studies concluded in November that there is "no evidence that abstinence-only sexual education programs cut teens' risk of sexually transmitted disease, HIV, or pregnancy."
Any program that convinces 12-year-olds to delay becoming sexually active—by presenting them with medically accurate information and giving them the tools to make up their own minds—deserves our support. But this study didn't "vindicate" the brand of sex ed embraced by religious conservatives. Don't believe the hype.