Friday, April 25, 2008

Abstinence Education Works!

A new meta-review of the research literature on abstinence-only sex ed done by the Heritage Foundation has found that 16 out of 21 studies reported:

"significant positive behavioral outcomes...such as delayed onset of sexual activity, reduced lev­els of early sexual activity, and fewer sexual partners among adolescents."

None of the remaining 5 studies found any negative results (indicating that the effect is at worst neutral), and some reported positive findings that just fell short of statistical significance.

The Heritage Foundation report also discussed the methodological flaws of the much-publicized Mathematica study, which claimed there were no significant differences between students who received abstinence-only education and those in control groups.

The Centers for Disease Control also this week reported that share of all U.S. pregnancies accounted for by teens has declined from 15% in 1990 to 12% in 2004. The abortion rate for teens has dropped by 24% over the same time frame.

Unfortunately, critics of abstinence-only education such as Planned Parenthood are lobbying Congress hard to kill Federal funding for these effective programs :-( Of course, they have a financial conflict of interest when it comes to pushing contraceptives since 50% of all unplanned pregnancies are the result of contraceptive failure and nearly half of those will end in abortion. The more teens who abstain from sex, the less money PP will make from providing abortions...

5 comments:

JJ Ross said...

But!
I think one must swallow the effectiveness of school and classroom indoctrination generally, in any subject, to cheer or even countenance this kind of "evidence" -- for any canned curriculum program, not particularly for this sort.

I know many standardized algebra, reading, philosophy and character development programs for example, eager to tout the same kind of purported effectiveness evidence, yet that fail in the same way to convince me (the fallen school pro turned to radical unschooling) they're anything but a pale imitation of real learning for real life.

So I don't see any reason I would suddenly believe such schoolish-statistical evidence any more readily when the educational objective is abstinence.

NanceConfer said...

"The more teens who abstain from sex, the less money PP will make from providing abortions..."

*********

Or not.

In reading through this article and following several of the footnotes to their source, I found the conclusions to be a bit too chirpy.

For instance, there's the America's Child report here: http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables.asp

that shows some of the same or similar statistics cited in the Heritage Foundation version of things.

It includes information about the trend in sexual activity from 1991 through 2005 -- the trend is toward slightly less sexual activity among "high school students who reported ever having had sexual intercourse, selected years 1991–2005" -- 54.1% versus 46.8%.

OTOH, the study includes information about condom use. "Among those who reported having had sexual intercourse during the past three months, the percentage of high school students who used a condom during the last sexual intercourse, selected years 1991–2005" -- the trend is up -- 46.2% versus 62.8%.

So fewer unwanted pregnancies, right? And we're all for that, right?

But look at the numbers about condom use again and there is something disturbing. There is a drop off in use from 9th to 12th grade -- 74.5% versus 55.4%. More sex, fewer condoms.

Which may or may not have anything to do with abstinence programs or pledge programs.

One pledge program study the Heritage Foundation likes is written up here http://www.jstor.org/pss/3081418
and here http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1949026

and includes this line:

“Promise breakers are less likely than others to use contraception at first intercourse.”

Which led me to this:

"Since the late 1990s, however, the number of children born to unmarried women in their 20s rose significantly, resulting in an overall increase in the birthrates to unmarried women." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/12/AR2007071202211.html

Which is from the America's Child study as well -- http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables.asp
-- which shows a 57% increase in the birthrate for unmarried women ages 20-24 from 1980 to 2001.

Obviously, not all of that increase is from broken pledges and unprotected sex by people who are the product of abstinence-only programs. It's a long-term trend.

The number of abortions in the US (note that these statistics are from 1973 through 2005.) is discussed here http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html -- A few quotes:


“Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion.[1] Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.[2]”

“At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45[4], and, at current rates, about one-third will have had an abortion.[5,6] “

“Fifty percent of U.S. women obtaining abortions are younger than 25: Women aged 20–24 obtain 33% of all abortions, and teenagers obtain 17%.[7] “

“Women who have never married obtain two-thirds of all abortions.[7]”

“About half of unintended pregnancies occur among the 11% of women who are at risk for unintended pregnancy but are not using contraceptives. Most of these women have practiced contraception in the past.[1,10]”

And from the chart that I don’t think I can post here:

Number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44, by year:

1973 -- 16.3
2005 -- 19.4


If the goal is two-fold -- fewer abortions and fewer babies born to unmarried young women -- none of what we have been doing -- abstinence-based or not -- seems to be helping.

Without effective birth control and education about using it, the number of unplanned pregnancies and other problems related to unprotected sex in teens and young adults will not go away and the result will be either more abortions or more young unwed mothers. Adequate funding of Planned Parenthood and other reality-based programs seems a small price to pay.

And here’s a link explaining what Planned Parenthood is paid for an abortion procedure -- it doesn’t sound like a “get rich quick” scheme to me -- http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/abortion/abortion-procedures-4359.htm#center -- and is less than having the same procedure done in a hospital.

Nance Confer

Summer said...

I would recommend this informative and educational article on teen pregnancy and teen birth rates.

mbdbigbluffa said...

obviously things have changed since u grew up. i would personally say about 50-60% of the kids at my school have some sexual contact (oral or intercourse) by then end of 9th grade or sooner and i go to a rural school (town of about 2000). most of them start out with condoms. then quickly learn from hearsay and experimentation that it just feels better without. idk what we even learned in 9th grade health because by then most of us were thinking about how we were land our next "hook up". my point is that alot of kids will "do it" no matter what u tell them. and the ones who aren't going probably aren't not "doing it" because u told them too. if anything it would hurt theres nothing kids like doing more than getting away with something naughty

Crimson Wife said...

Actually, things *HAVE* changed since I graduated high school back in '95- *FEWER* teens are now sexually active and those who are report fewer partners. The percentage of teens who lose their virginity prior to age 18 has dropped significantly over the past 15 years.

The drop in teen sex accounts for 67% of the decline in pregnancy rate among never-married girls aged 15-19.