New Study Proves Effectiveness of Abstinence Education

Just days after Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine announced that he will cut state funding for abstinence education programs, a new study affirmed that such initiatives in the state do work.

The study, which will be published in the Jan./Feb. 2008 issue of the "American Journal of Health Behavior," shows that programs by the state health department's Virginia Abstinence Education Initiative resulted in a "significant reduction in teen sexual initiation."

The Institute for Research and Evaluation evaluated the impact of the programs by examining the behavior of seventh-graders from five different Virginia schools. The study concluded that those students receiving abstinence education were about one-half (45.7 percent) as likely to initiate sexual activity as students who did not receive abstinence education.

Earlier this week, the governor cut off state funding for abstinence education programs after Planned Parenthood of Virginia lobbied for the change in policy.

Through his communications director, Kaine cited his desire to fund programs that are "evidenced-based."

He also announced that Virginia will now offer "more comprehensive" sex education programs, reported the Washington Post.

But supporters of abstinence education have called the governor's decision "a mistake" and say they hope the new report will prompt him to reconsider.

"Governor Kaine needs to reconsider his position for the sake of Virginia's teens," said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, in a statement Wednesday. "It is important to make decisions based on the full body of research.

"We hope Governor Kaine will consider this encouraging report, which is yet another confirmation that when young people are provided abstinence education, they abstain!"

In a statement Wednesday, Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, also urged Kaine to do his "homework" before making such a significant decision.

"Good policy is based on accurate information and tax funding should favor programs with proven results," she said.

"He needs to re-think his decision to cut funding from abstinence programs that work, and re-consider his allegiance to faulty, ineffective comprehensive sex ed programs and the groups that profit from encouraging kids to be sexually active," added Wright.

Huber defended the quality of the abstinence education programs to critics, noting that while they send a "strong abstinence message," the initiatives do provide youth information on sexually transmitted diseases and contraception.

"Federal funding for abstinence programs has significantly contributed to the nationwide decline in teen pregnancies and the increase in the percentage of teens that are waiting to have sex in Virginia, and across the United States," said Huber.

Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R-Fairfax) told the Washington Post that he will try to get the General Assembly to reverse the governor's decision when it convenes in January.