Citing New Study Showing that Federally Funded Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs Don’t Work, ACLU Calls on Congress to Stop Funding

April 13, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union said the long-awaited release of a study showing that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs don’t work should end the debate over federal funding for such extreme programs. The study, commissioned by Congress, looked at several federally funded programs and found that teens who participated in these programs were just as likely to have sex as teens who did not participate.

“The ACLU has long said that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are ineffective, and what’s worse censor vital information about how to protect against unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases,” said Lorraine Kenny, Public Education Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Today’s study makes clear that these programs have no place in our classrooms and should not be funded by taxpayer dollars.”

Since 1996, the federal government has spent more than a billion dollars on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs despite research like today’s indicating that many such programs are ineffective. Some studies show that abstinence-only programs actually deter teens from protecting themselves from unintended pregnancy or disease when they start having sex.

In the coming months, Congress will consider whether to continue funding abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Today’ study is strong evidence that these programs should no longer receive taxpayer dollars, the ACLU said.

Today’s report, Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs, concludes, “Findings indicate that youth in the program group were no more likely than control group youth to have abstained from sex and, among those who reported having had sex, they had similar numbers of sexual partners and had initiated sex at the same mean age.”

“It is time for the federal government to leave ideology out of the sex education equation and stop wasting money on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that risk teens’ health,” said Vania Leveille, Legislative Counsel for the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “It’s common sense: teens need complete and medically accurate information on both abstinence and contraception to lead healthy lives.”

To receive federal funds, abstinence-only-until-marriage grantees must offer curricula that have as their “exclusive purpose” teaching the benefits of abstinence and may not advocate contraceptive use or teach contraception methods except to emphasize their failure rates.

Currently, there are no federal funds dedicated to programs providing teens with comprehensive sexuality education. The Responsible Education About Life Act (S.972 / HR. 1653), recently introduced in Congress, proposes the first federal program devoted to providing states with funding to teach age-appropriate sexuality education that includes medically accurate and complete information about abstinence and contraception, the ACLU said.

Besides endangering teen’s health, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs raise serious civil liberties concerns. These programs create a hostile environment for gay and lesbian teens, reinforce gender stereotypes, and in some instances use taxpayer dollars to promote religion.

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