by Paige Herwig
The past several months haven’t been kind to proponents of abstinence-only education. First, an independent, nonpartisan policy organization released a report which found that abstinence-only education programs had no impact whatsoever on teen sexual behavior (incidentally, that report – by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. – was commissioned by the federal government). Then the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was put on notice by several nonprofit organizations that many federally-funded abstinence-only programs are in violation of a federal law that requires accurate information about condom effectiveness. Finally, the ACLU called attention to the fact that taxpayer dollars in Oregon are being (mis)used to pay for abstinence-only programs that promote a specific religion (which is a constitutional no-no).
You might think that in the face of mounting evidence that abstinence-only education is ineffective at best, and promotes harmful misinformation at worst, our elected representatives would reconsider whether federal funding for such programs (to the tune of almost $1 billion since 1996) is actually a good idea. Instead, politicians who are abstinence-only advocates tried to discredit comprehensive sex education programs – which provide medically accurate, age-appropriate information about contraception and abstinence – by issuing a report of their own last week claiming that a small number of comprehensive programs contained scientific inaccuracies.