A new landmark study shows that abstinence education is more effective in reducing sexual activity among youths than other programs.
One-third of students who completed the abstinence program had sexual intercourse within two years of the class. By comparison, more than half of those who participated in safe sex and condom use programs said they had sexual intercourse.
More than 40 percent of students who received either an eight- or 12-hour class combining both abstinence education and safe sex said they had sex within the two-year period.
The study, which appears in the February 2010 Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, published by the American Medical Association, followed black middle school students for a full two years after their completion of the abstinence class.
"Finally, a study that proves what those of us who have been teaching abstinence have known for years," said Leslee Unruh, president and founder of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse. "These programs help develop self control and self esteem, teaching kids they do not need to fall prey to the game of Russian Roulette with condoms."
Unruh added, "Abstinence is a message our kids want to hear – this study shows youth are making healthier choices and changing their behavior in response to this refreshing message."
Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the 16,000-member Christian Medical Association, responded to the study by commenting that "science has finally caught up with logic and what parents have known for centuries," that abstinence is an effective way to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
"Many groups and individuals up until yesterday had relentlessly railed against abstinence programs as totally ineffective, even counterproductive," said Stevens.
These groups use studies to convince lawmakers, including President Obama, to eliminate federal funding for abstinence programs, he said.
"It turns out that when it comes to educating their children on matters of sex, Mom and Dad really do know best," Stevens concluded.
The report comes after the Guttmacher Institute released its own study, showing that teen pregnancy and abortion rates rose in 2006, ending a 15-year decline. The institute insisted that the increase was a result of steep declines and a subsequent plateau in contraceptive use in the early 2000s and the widespread abstinence-only sex education programs that were promoted under the Bush administration.
Pro-life group American Life League, however, rejected the Guttmacher Institute's argument, citing declines in teen pregnancy rates in the early 1990s when "it became popular to teach the abstinence message" and increases when Planned Parenthood began lobbying various states to refuse abstinence money and reduce abstinence programs.
The latest study was compiled and released by Drs. John and Loretta Jemmott from the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Geoffrey Fong from the University of Waterloo and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research in Waterloo, Ontario.
Dr. John B. Jemmott candidly admitted, "I think we've written off abstinence-only education without looking closely at the nature of the evidence."
The study followed 662 students from four public middle schools that serve low-income African American communities in a city in northeastern U.S. Recruited between September 2001 and March 2002, the students were randomly selected by a computer to either take an 8-hour abstinence-only intervention, 8-hour safer sex-only intervention, 8-hour comprehensive intervention, a 12-hour comprehensive intervention, or an 8-hour health promotion control intervention.