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Summary: Abstinence-Only Programs Effective in Protecting Teens from Consequences of Unwed Sex

While under-funded in comparison to comprehensive sex education programs, abstinence-only programs are changing teens’ attitudes about sex before marriage and helping protect them from the negative consequences of premarital sex, including unwed childbearing and sexually-transmitted diseases.

  • While abstinence-until-marriage programs received $102 million in government funding in 2002, teen sex education and contraception programs received at least $427.7 million. Despite this gulf in funding, abstinence programs have been very effective in helping students postpone sexual activity, thereby reducing the threat of sexually-transmitted diseases and unwed pregnancy. Some such successful programs are: Choosing the Best; Teen-Aid, Inc., The Art of Loving Well Project; Operation Keepsake; and virginity pledges. The Family Research Council published an executive summary on evaluations of these abstinence-only programs and their effectiveness. “Choosing the Best”: Northwestern University Medical School found that in 1996 54% of teens who were recently sexually active before participating in the program were no longer sexually active one year later. “Teen-Aid, Inc.”: A 1999 study found that 47% of students said they were less likely to have sexual intercourse before they got married on the pre-test; compared to 54% that said the same after taking the course. “Operation Keepsake”: a 2001 evaluation found that students had higher abstinence-until-marriage values at the follow-up survey than did those who did not attend the abstinence program. Finally, a 2001 study based on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health demonstrated that teens who take a virginity pledge are 34% less likely to have sex before marriage compared to those who do not pledge. Equitable funding would help such successful programs to serve more schools and communities and help more teens make healthy choices.1

1Abstience Until Marriage: The Best Message for Teens, Family Research Council, April 24, 2007.

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