Evidence Once Again Shows Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs Don’t Work

April 23, 2008 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing today titled “Domestic Abstinence-Only Programs: Assessing the Evidence.” The ACLU applauds Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) for bringing new attention to this deeply troubling policy and the committee’s willingness to examine the public health policy implications of abstinence-only programs. We look forward to the testimony of scientists, clinicians, researchers and youth activists who will report on the failures of abstinence-only education programs.

Their testimony is supported by research which has repeatedly shown that, at best, abstinence-only programs do not delay sexual initiation and, at worst, may actually cause harm by providing young people with dangerously inadequate and inaccurate information. A troubling recent report found teens in Florida, a state that relies on abstinence-only programs, who believed drinking a can of Mt. Dew would prevent unintended pregnancy, or drinking a capful of bleach would prevent HIV/AIDS.

In addition to the clear and compelling public health concerns of abstinence-only programs, the ACLU has submitted a statement to the committee addressing the civil liberties concerns raised by these programs. Abstinence-only programs censor information, reinforce gender stereotypes, provide inaccurate and misleading information, promote religion, serve a narrow ideological agenda, stigmatize lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, and jeopardize the well-being of young people.

“The evidence leads to only one conclusion: abstinence-only programs represent a failed policy,” said Vania Leveille, legislative counsel at the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “They are driven by ideology and politics, rather than by science or good public health policy, and our young people are suffering as a result. Most troubling, they represent a purposeful campaign to mislead, distort, stifle and censor, and are part of a disturbing trend to politicize science. The ACLU urges congressional action to bring this failed policy to an end.”

Since 1996, the U.S. government has poured more than a billion dollars into abstinence-only education programs so ineffective and dangerous that seventeen states have refused funding. At a time when the administration emphasizes accountability in funding only programs with demonstrated success, the continued funding of unproven abstinence-only programs is unacceptable.

The ACLU’s statement to the committee is available at: /reproductiverights/sexed/34976leg20080423.html.

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