Monday, June 18, 2007

Condoms are Fine, but Don't Teach Kids to Say No to Sex

From "Condoms are Fine, but Don't Teach Kids to Say No to Sex" by David Niedrauer, posted 6/18/07 at

Telling kids to put off sex until marriage doesn’t sit well with mainstream journalists. When a recent study came out that undermines abstinence-only education, the media gave it a full ride, but the same media refused to cover research supporting abstinence education, or criticisms of the anti-abstinence study.

On June 8, The Institute for Research and Evaluation in Salt Lake City released a report that studied federally funded abstinence-only programs and found that the best ones “can reduce teen sexual activity by as much as one half.” IRE’s report also questions the methodology of the much-hyped Mathematica study, released in April 2007, which challenges the efficacy of abstinence education. The Institute’s work is frequently peer-reviewed, and preeminent sex researcher Douglas Kirby included some of its findings on abstinence education in his 2001 Emerging Answers survey of notable research in the field. However, the media has so far kept mum on the Institute’s abstinence education report.

The selective coverage is a pattern.

In March 2007, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sponsored the “Abstinence Education Evaluation Conference” in Baltimore, MD to present peer-reviewed research on state abstinence-only programs. Nearly 400 experts and critics from around the nation attended. The conference assessed 10 empirical, peer-reviewed studies of abstinence-only programs in 10 states; nine of them found such programs to be extremely effective. The event was a victory for abstinence education, but even the local press decided to go AWOL.

...National Public Radio’s Larry Abramson, April 13: “Does it make sense for the government to spend $170 million a year on abstinence education?...But abstinence education critics say, in fact, the administration has been pushing this approach almost exclusively at the expense of comprehensive programs that are more effective.”

CNN News’s Joe Johns, April 13: “But critics argue, abstinence-only programs are not realistic. They do not provide kids with the facts with things about like condom use, and that could leave the kids naive about protecting themselves if they do have sex.” Johns did not cite a single study supporting abstinence-only education.

ABC’s Dianne Sawyer on Good Morning America, April 16: “A government report finds abstinence-only education programs are not working.”

Read the entire article.