Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Here’s yet another study that shows that abstinence-only sex ed and virginity pledges does nothing to reduce teen sex but does significantly reduce the use of contraception by those who take them.

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a “virginity pledge,” but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.


Here’s why this matters:

The findings are reigniting the debate about the effectiveness of abstinence-focused sexual education just as Congress and the new Obama administration are about to reconsider the more than $176 million in annual funding for such programs.

“This study again raises the issue of why the federal government is continuing to invest in abstinence-only programs,” said Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “What have we gained if we only encourage young people to delay sex until they are older, but then when they do become sexually active — and most do well before marriage — they don’t protect themselves or their partners?”

James Wagoner of the advocacy group Advocates for Youth agreed: “The Democratic Congress needs to get its head out of the sand and get real about sex education in America.”

I’m not holding my breath. But federal funding for abstinence only sex ed should be eliminated. Immediately.