Abstinence-only, do we have money to waste?
Minnesota: State's Abstinence-Only Sex Education Doesn't Work
Any Better, Report Says
Star Tribune - Monday, January 05, 2004
An independent study commissioned by the Minnesota Department of
Health (MDH) found the state's $5 million abstinence-only sex
education program is not working. At three schools with the EN-
ABL (Education Now and Babies Later) program, of 413 junior high
students surveyed, the rate of sexual activity increased from
5.8 percent to 12.4 percent in 2001-2002 - a pattern similar to
that of kids state-wide. The rate of students reporting they
would likely have sex before high school graduation increased
from 9.5 percent to 17 percent.
Critics of ENABL questioned why MDH waited six months after the
report's completion to post it, with little fanfare, on its Web
site last week. The 91-page report recommends including more in-
formation about contraception in the program. Of 2,500 Minnesota
parents surveyed, only one-fifth wanted abstinence-only educa-
tion and 77 percent wanted their kids to know about contracep-
tion. "We take it very seriously," said Carol Woolverton, assis-
tant commissioner of MDH. But it is too early to say whether the
department will find ways to reach sexually active kids with in-
formation about contraceptives, she said. ENABL - paid for with
state and, mostly, federal money - would lose federal funding if
it changes from abstinence-only.
The five-year-old ENABL program is coordinated by schools, local
organizations and parents. It primarily consists of a five-hour
curriculum including statistics, reasons why kids should wait
until they are adults or married to have sex, and suggestions on
how to avoid sex and risky situations where sex might occur. It
also encourages them to talk to their parents about sex. The
program includes information about condom failure rates but
nothing on their efficacy for preventing pregnancy and disease.
The findings raise the question of whether sexually active kids
are getting the information they need to avoid pregnancy and
STDs, said Connie Schmitz, the Professional Evaluation Services
consultant who headed the study. However, Minnesota Family Coun-
cil President Tom Prichard said ENABL is not working because its
abstinence message does not go far enough: Kids should wait un-
til marriage to have sex - not just until adulthood - and should
abstain from any physical or sexual contact.
On a happy note, researchers said that between 1998 and 2001,
kids surveyed showed a greater willingness to talk to their par-
ents about sex.