Archive for February, 2010


Monday, February 22nd, 2010

It seems to be generally agreed that to achieve the goal of fewer abortions performed in this country there needs to be a sharp reduction in unwanted pregnancies. Particularly this is important among teenagers and especially for those who are in disadvantaged situations. The question is what kind of public policy will help to achieve that goal as well as reducing significantly the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases [STDs] in this very vulnerable age group.
 For some time there has been an ongoing debate about a federally mandated and supported program of school based abstinence-only sex education. In the recently passed Omnibus government spending bill signed into law by President Obama in December 2009 there was included a provision for removing all spending for these highly restrictive abstinence-only programs. The programs, under longstanding Federal law since the 1980’s, denied young people accurate information about contraceptives, STDs and the avoidance of unwanted pregnancies.
 A congressional study mandated in 2007 demonstrated that elementary and middle school children receiving abstinence-only sex education, had no fewer unplanned pregnancies than those in a similar group of students who had not been exposed to the program. Also States that opted out of these mandated abstinence-only programs had lower abortion rates than in those states participating. The new initiative, to replace the abstinence-only education program, is championed by the Obama White House. It will be managed by new office of adolescent health within the Department of Health and Human
Services. [1]
 Recently a new study reported this year from the University of Pennsylvania showed that in a select group of middle school students abstinence-only was emphasized, 33% delayed having sex for a 24 month period as compared to 42% in a group assigned to classes incorporating comprehensive sex education.  As explained by the study director. Dr. John B. Jemmott III, this new study differed from previous restrictive abstinence-only programs in that in addition to counseling abstinence, sexual activity was not portrayed negatively nor were condoms taught to be ineffective. In addition, the classes contained only medically accurate information.[2]  Considering those modifications, this study does suggest that in younger age groups abstinence emphasis may have definite value.
 Taking into consideration currently available medically and scientifically based information, IPPA strongly supports that this new federally supported national public policy emphasizing comprehensive, medically accurate and age appropriate sex education, including abstinence, [particularly in younger age groups] be available to students in every region of this country. Once implemented it is also very important that these programs undergo rigorous evaluation. Widespread access to such programs should help in reducing unwanted pregnancies, thereby hopefully reducing the need for abortions, as well as reducing the incidence of STDs.

1. Editorial, “End to the Abstinence-Only Fantasy” New York Times
2. Tamar Lewin, “Abstinence Education Is found to Delay Sex”
     New York Times 7-3-2010