Abstinence? No thanks, we'll have sex

By Tim Grieve

Published February 1, 2005 5:22PM (EST)

With everyone from George Bush to Hillary Clinton touting the wonder-working power of abstinence education, it might be nice to know whether such programs actually work. There's news out of Texas on that front: They don't.

In a study commissioned by the Texas Department of State Health Services, researchers at Texas A&M University found that abstinence-only programs in 29 Texas high schools seemed to have absolutely no impact on whether teens engaged in sex.

As Reuters explains, the study showed that about 23 percent of ninth-grade girls reported having sex before receiving abstinence education. After receiving the education, about 29 percent of the girls in the same group said they had had sex. For boys, the increase was more dramatic. Twenty-four percent said they had sex before taking the classes, while 39 percent said they had sex after the classes were over. The increases in sexual activity mirrored trends in the state generally as teens get older, suggesting that the abstinence programs had done nothing to prevent teen sex or the unwanted pregnancies it can produce.

"We didn't see any strong indications that these programs were having an impact in the direction desired," researcher Buzz Pruitt told Reuters. "These programs seem to be much more concerned about politics than kids, and we need to get over that."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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