RSS
The final word on abstinence?
Supporters say a new study proves abstinence sex ed works. Skeptics say the debate isn't over
 

A landmark study released Monday found that a sexual education program urging sixth- and seventh-graders to be abstinent succeeded in getting most of the children to delay having sex. "This new study is game-changing," one abstinence advocate said. But observers pointed out that the class in the study contained none of the moral preaching or religious overtones of Bush-era "abstain-until-marriage" programs — the approach was merely "abstain for now." Should we take the study with a grain of salt, or does it prove once and for all that abstinence programs work? (Watch a discussion about the study on abstinence sex-ed)

This settles it. Abstinence works: Nobody is saying that abstinence-based education is perfect, says Ross Douthat in The New York Times. But we now know, beyond all doubt, that "one abstinence program designed in a particular way, implemented by a particular group of teachers," and aimed at a particular group of children "was considerably more effective than a contraception-based approach." That's an important finding.
"The great abstinence debate"

Don't read too much into this study: This study says nothing at all about Bush's "abstinence-until-marriage" programs, says Michael Roston in True/Slant. "Abstinence-until-you're-ready" is something else entirely. And this study only involved African-American tweens in Philadelphia, so it's dishonest to call it the definitive word on whether abstinence classes work for everyone, especially older teens.
"New study on ‘abstinence-only’ bound to inject controversy into sex education debate"

Be clear that this doesn't support abstinence-only ed: Abstinence must be part of a "fairly neutral education" that mentions all options, says Hanna Rossin in DoubleX, but pushing abstinence for all only dooms children to "permanent ignorance." Earlier comprehensive studies have shown that abstinence classes only delay sex a little and "result in teens having more unprotected sex."
"Don't listen to Ross Douthat on abstinence education"

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week