The Obama Mandate: End Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs

Republicans these days are very, very deeply concerned about “wasteful
government spending.”  House Minority Leader John Boehner complained
about wasteful spending in the stimulus.  Congressman Mike Pence of
Indiana stated: “More big government spending…won’t cure what ails the
American economy.”  House Republican Whip Eric Kantor made the rounds
of the Sunday talk shows talking “waste, waste, waste.”  And now,
according to the New York Times, the National Republican Congressional
Committee is launching ads blasting House Democrats on the stimulus
bill, which it ridicules as “chockfull of wasteful Washington

You know what?  I agree.  Let’s get rid of that wasteful Washington spending.

And I have a concrete suggestion that will save over $200 million in
cold hard cash right away, plus billions of dollars in future
healthcare and related economic costs!

Sound too good to be true?  

Really, it’s not a gimmick.  It’s very simple: We just need to zero out
funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in the next budget

These programs don’t work to reduce sexual activity in teens, they
don’t work to reduce sexually transmitted infections and they don’t
work to reduce unintended pregnancies.

What is worse, they waste money both on the front end and the back end:
The failure of these programs to effectively contribute to preventing
unintended pregnancies and infections from the outset actually costs
more money in the long run.  In 2004, for example, teen childbearing in
the United States cost taxpayers at least $9.1 billion, never mind the
costs of sexually transmitted infections.  So by investing in
abstinence-only programs, taxpayers actually are losing billions at a
rapid clip.

So it’s easy.  Eliminate the funding; we all save money now and money later.  

Given the general concern about wasteful spending, the desire to ensure
the prudent investments of taxpayer funds in ways that yield positive
benefits, concerns about rising health care costs, and the
now-overwhelming evidence that abstinence-only programs don’t work, one
might assume it will be easy to reach bipartisan agreement that abstinence-only programs, like
the bridges to nowhere of the past,  should
just be cut.  No bickering, no posturing…pure and simple.  Should be

We will soon find out.

Given they control the White House and Congress, the ball actually
is in the Democrats’ court for now.  Several observers have suggested
it may be too late to remove funding for abstinence-only from the
Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 appropriations bill, which has yet to be passed
and which will likely be rolled into a giant omnibus bill to be dealt
with by Congress.  (Although given their concerns, perhaps the Republicans will offer an amendment to take it out?)

But President Obama is expected to release his first federal budget
request, for FY 2010, at the end of February, and the pressure is on to
eliminate ab-only funding in this next fiscal cycle.  A number of
leading advocacy groups, including Advocates for Youth and the
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US
(SIECUS) have
launched campaigns urging President Obama to do just that.  Both point to promises made by Obama during the campaign and
in his inaugural speech to put an end to these programs, and to ensure
evidence drives public policy.  (To take action see Advocates for Youth
here, and SIECUS here).

Candidate Obama, for example, “firmly oppose(d) federal funding for
abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.”  He also declared support for
“comprehensive sex education that is age-appropriate,” and asserted
that providing “science-based sex education in schools [is] the right
thing to do.”  As a Senator, he was a co-sponsor of the Responsible
Education About Life (REAL) Act, which would provide funding for
comprehensive, medically accurate sex education, and the Prevention
First Act which supports efforts to reduce unintended pregnancy and
increase access to contraceptive services and information.  Moreover,
during the transition, a Congressional liaison from the President-Elect’s transition team reportedly communicated
directly to congressional leaders Obama’s firm opposition to continued funding for abstinence-only
programs, expressing again his full support for comprehensive

Still, many advocates want Obama to make this crystal clear when he releases his budget and not, according to fears expressed by some, just give "broad guidance to Congress" as he did with the stimulus package.   They want the White House to make its priorities known.  James Wagoner,
President of Advocates for Youth, notes that:

“What President Obama does on
abstinence-only-until-marriage funding in his first budget will be the
flagship signal for young people regarding the President’s credibility
on reproductive and sexual health issues.  Obama was explicitly supportive of
comprehensive sex education and science-based approaches to public
policy during his campaign.  This budget must zero out abstinence-only
funding.  It simply has to go.”

The majority of Americans apparently agree with Wagoner and the
President on comprehensive programming.  According to a study by
researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, originally published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, the majority of American
adults (80.4 percent) favor a balanced approach to sex education in
schools, regardless of their political leanings.  The survey gauged
strong support for teaching children about both abstinence and other
ways of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  And,
as Wagoner points out, support for the stimulus package proposed by the
President polled 20 points higher among 18 to 29 year olds then the
rest of the population, indicating the very high level of political support among
young adult voters for “doing the right thing.”

And here is where it gets a little complicated.

First of all, under the Bush Administration, funding for
abstinence-only-until-marriage programs rose
from $97.5 million in 2000
to $215 million in 2008.  The funding kept rising, even when Democrats
were in control of Congress, and even after numerous studies, including
a federally-funded evaluation conducted by Mathematica Policy Research
and published in April 2007, showed that these programs were
ineffective.  The Mathematica study reviewed four carefully selected
abstinence-only education programs, and showed that youth enrolled in
the programs were no more likely than those not in the programs to
delay sexual initiation, to have fewer sexual partners, or to abstain
entirely from sex.

Still, the programs retained strong support from powerful
organizations, like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
and from a wide array of conservative evangelical groups receiving
federal funds to promote abstinence-only.  As a result, some members of
Congress, including Congressman David Obey, Chair of the Appropriations
Committee, have been reluctant to cut such funding in the past.  Obey,
for one, comes from a heavily Catholic district near Milwaukee.  Absent a clear message from the White House that the days of abstinence-only are over, some fear that members like Obey may not remove this funding from the House appropriations bill. 

And if
the stimulus debacle was any indication, we can anticipate
that, despite their concern for waste in government, at least a few
Republican leaders will try to twist the debate on funding of
abstinence-only programs until the facts lay in tatters on the green
room floors of cable stations across the land.  If that happens, then other members, even Democrats, may feel pressured to
act against both the evidence and that ever-invoked "will of the
American people" just to mollify the loudest in the farthest right.

In high school, the extent of Max’s sexual health education was an abstinence-only program that succeeded only in alienating him by refusing to provide him, as a gay person and young person, with the information and tools for a healthy sex life. Watch part 2 of Max’s story.

Because of these complicated politics, nothing is guaranteed.  To
ensure the House does the right thing, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a strong
supporter of evidence-based programs, needs to use her leadership role
and make clear to her members from the outset that the goal is to end funding for these
programs once and for all. 

Second, there is no line item for comprehensive sexual health education
in the federal budget, and bills proactively supporting these programs
have yet to be passed.  Related programs also desperately need
additional funding.  According to Bill Smith, Vice President for Public Policy at SIECUS:

“The challenge is not just about getting rid of funding for abstinence-only programs, it’s also about fulfilling the committment to fund comprehensive sex education, increasing HIV prevention and Title X funding and about increased funding for the broader reproductive and sexual health services needed by people throughout this country.”

So to really fulfill his own mandate, Obama has to cut out money for programs that don’t work and proactively fund
programs that do work, and which people urgently need, like family
planning, sexual health education, HIV prevention and the rest. 

For now, however, abstinence-only remains a boondoggle and a dangerous
one at that.  Originally reported by Joe Sonka on Amplify, an Advocates
for Youth site, and then on RH Reality Check, one such program
supported by $800,000 of your tax dollars pays a clown with dubious
credentials (ok, I admit I do not know the full curriculum at clown
school) to teach adolescents about "saving sex for marriage."  Great
for that first birthday party, but not so much for safer sex, unless he
teaches creative use of the balloons.  And even then I am not so sure. 
But clearly the content of this program was embarrassing enough that
once exposed, both the clown, and Elizabeth’s New Life Center, lucky
recipient of all these funds, removed information regarding the
program from their respective web sites.

And while the clown example may provide fodder for late-night
television comedy, other programs engage in dangerous reinforcement of
attitudes and behaviors that denigrate women, blacks, hispanics and homosexuals.  For example, another program
uncovered by Amplify
, again in Ohio, involved a video role-play of four
teens at a party, one of whom, a female, offers to drive her drunk
(male) friend home.  When he rapes her, the role-play blames her for
“putting herself in a risky situation” and for “having a reputation,”
suggesting her claims of rape are suspect.  So this program actually blames the victim for the rape,
and dismisses the guy’s behavior as a “boys will be boys” escapade. 
Apparently strength of conviction by the organization running this
program about the video dissipated as fast as you could say “blog
post,” because once again, the video got changed right after the
program was exposed.  Shows you what a little “transparency” might find.

Reinforcement of prejudicial attitudes, bias and discrimination based
on race and sexual identity also are rife within these programs, many
of which are subject to little if any oversight for content.  A report by
Legal Momentum
, for example, found that many federally funded
abstinence-only programs discourage condom use, distort reproductive
health information, and reinforce harmful gender stereotypes.  “Many
programs also perpetuate sexist and racist stereotypes about women of
color,” adds the report.  

One example is ’The Choice Game’ which:

"Has a ‘Midwest School version’ that features 95 percent
white students and an ‘urban school version,’ featuring ‘55%
African-American actors, 24% Hispanic actors and the remaining are
Caucasian.’  The urban version contains stereotypes of African-American
women as sexually aggressive and as drug users, and of African-American
men as likely to end up in jail.  In sharp contrast, the Midwest
materials depict white students working to maintain their ‘traditional

Reports by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union
reveal similar findings.  And a 2004 report by the House Committee
on Oversight and Government Reform
found that

“over 80% of the abstinence-only curricula, used by
over two-thirds of grantees [reviewed] in 2003, contain false,
misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health.” 

In short, the programs reviewed by the Committee took an
industrial-size eraser to the line between separation of church and
state, relying on heavy does of prosyletizing and religious content to
get their ineffective messages across.

Finally, a report by Douglas Kirby, a Senior Research Scientist at ETR Associates conducted for the National Campaign to Reduce Teen Pregnancy stated that:

At present, there does not exist any strong evidence that
any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return
to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners. In addition,
there is strong evidence from multiple randomized trials demonstrating
that some abstinence programs chosen for evaluation because they were
believed to be promising actually had no impact on teen sexual
behavior. That is, they did not delay the initiation of sex, increase
the return to abstinence or decrease the number of sexual partners. At
the same time, they did not have a negative impact on the use of
condoms or other contraceptives.  Studies of abstinence programs have
not produced sufficient evidence to justify their widespread

What more do we need to know to avoid putting several hundred million more dollars through a giant shredder?

In this new era of citizen participation, accountability, and
respect for  evidence and human rights, it is up to us to ensure our elected officials get rid of this particular
barrel of pork.

"On one hand," says Marcela Howell, Vice President of Policy and Communications at Advocates for Youth, 

"We have a Democratic President who has
pledged to get rid of this spending.  We have a majority of Democrats
in Congress who have publicly stated opposition to this funding, and we
have a Republican party on the hunt for wasteful spending.  It seems like an easy decision.”

It should be easy.  But to be honest, given this situation, if we can’t mobilize enough grassroots strength to ensure the
President and Congress get rid of these funds, bring back the clown
because the joke is on us.

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For more information or to schedule an interview with contact

Follow Jodi Jacobson on twitter: @jljacobson

  • invalid-0

    As an HIV/AIDS activist we have long opposed Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs because they don’t work. Sahrah Palin & her daughter, strong supporters of Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs both found the program usless because they became pregnant before marriage themselves. George W Bush himself said, we should only fund scientifically proven programs. The CDC said Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs are useless and not financially sound investments. I teach safer sex and the first thin out of my mouth is Abstinence in the safest practice, BUT if you find you are unable to maintain that program, you need to know how to keep your self from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. I then explain the other options.

  • invalid-0

    I totally agree we need to get rid of abstience only education. It is proven not to work. Providing accurate and truthful information, including risk reduction is proven to reduce STI’s and unplanned pregnancy. Lets give the money to comprehensive education and prevention programs.

  • invalid-0

    Abstinence only never worked. It is a reality that we live in a Country where one population has always been heard over another as much as we would like to think that we all are equal. The undercurrent in America is Christianity and with the majority of Christians believing that abstinence only works, then it may be a while before we see these programs go away. In the end science and evidence based beliefs will prevail. As a Christian myself, I know that abstinence does not work. We do not need to live any longer in 20AD, it is 2009 and we need to live by the beliefs that are still relevant and discard the ones that are not.

  • invalid-0

    Has Mark Dybul been permanently replaced? i know he’s out, but what’s the news about his replacement?

    Who, if anyone, is lobbying for the elimination of abstinence only, and how are they doing so?

    And, how is Rick Warren fighting? Fiercely, I’m sure, because Rick Warren is as invested in his AIDS work as in anything else, but does anyone have any idea what’s going on behind the scenes about this?

  • invalid-0

    This is totally disingenuous. You don’t want to eliminate the abortion funding or Planned Parenthood funding. Until you advocate for that, then you’re not really serious abotu balancing the budget and just want to target programs with which you disagree.

  • invalid-0

    i was trying to leave these comments for Jodi Jacobson in hopes of receiving a response via e-mail:

    Has Mark Dybul been permanently replaced? i know he’s out, but what’s the news about his replacement?

    Who, if anyone, is lobbying for the elimination of abstinence only, and how are they doing so?

    And, how is Rick Warren fighting? Fiercely, I’m sure, because Rick Warren is as invested in his AIDS work as in anything else, but does anyone have any idea what’s going on behind the scenes about this?

    I have been writing about this issue, particularly with regard to PEPFAR in Rwanda and Uganda, against the backdrop of the Congo War. Would like to interview you, Jodi Jacobson, for the “San Francisco Bay View, National Black Newspaper.”

  • invalid-0

    I do not see anywhere in this article the suggestion that no other funding should be cut. Nowhere.

    As for eliminating the abortion funding and Planned Parenthood Funding, it should undergo the same analysis: If its benefits are not proportional to its costs, in a positive way, it should be eliminated.

    If, as most studies (at least those conducted by groups without a financial incentive to fudge the data) have shown, Abstinence-Only programs do not return anything to the investor (taxpayer, citizen) then why continue to fund them?

    I have seen no hard evidence to suggest that Planned Parenthood is not effective. And while I do not think abortion should ever beused as a birth-control mechanism, an abortion costs a couple of hundred dollars. Raising a child can cost a fortune, and if that child is born to someone without access to affordable healthcare, chances are that we are going to be the ones paying for it, for the life of the individual.

    So, LOL. If you want to stand in the way of people getting information with which they can make informed choices, keep up the smokescreen. Otherwise, as Bob Dylan said, “…Your old road is rapidly agin’. Please get out of the new one
    If you can’t lend your hand, For the times they are a-changin’!”

  • invalid-0

    Which assumes funding Planned Parenthood is wasteful, which it obviously is not. Unless you think funding anything at all to help improve the sexual health of the country is wasteful.

  • jodi-jacobson

    I did try to respond to you at an earlier point.

    please email me at we can set a time to talk by phone the next couple days.

    best, jodi

    • invalid-0

      I just wrote to your e-mail address to try to arrange a time to talk about the abstinence only nightmare and U.S. HIV/AIDS funding, as you suggested, so I’m just sending this note to back that up and make sure we don’t cross wires again.

      My g-mail address is

  • jodi-jacobson

    I think you miss the point entirely.
    As I noted in this article, unintended pregnancies cost us all money. A lot of it. Personally and socially. Please note: I am talking about unintended pregnancies, which I have come to realize too many people translate as "forcing" women not to have children.

    Sexually transmitted infections cost us all money.  Personally and socially.

    Preventing these and other outcomes of unprotected sex is the core of a public health approach.  The way you do this is to equip people with the skills and tools to make good decisions.  You teach about delaying sexual activity, how to say “no,” what to do when your and your partners’ mutually consensual answer is "yes," and how to avoid an unintended pregnancy or infection, or to have a healthy pregnancy, labor and delivery.  All these things and many others things make up that contested concept called "reproductive and sexual health."

    There is unequivocal agreement in the public health community that providing these skills, tools and methods saves money in the long run.  We teach people wear seatbelts for the same reason.  It reduces the risks.

    So no, it is not a valid comparison.  One is proven not to work; the other is proven to work.

    I hope you are investing your personal finances according to the same principles or maybe you like bridges to nowhere.

    Or maybe there are just people who are so deeply buried in their own ideology –or getting so much money for these programs from the federal government–that absolutely no amount of evidence will be enough.

    With all due respect,




  • invalid-0

    I am a 33 year old man of above average education, intelligence with a Psychology Degree and Communication Minor. Some of those courses included Psychology of Sexuality, Human Development and Childhood Education. I work with teenagers and young adults on a daily basis, and have for almost 13 years. I’m going to keep this short and sweet.

    1) “Safe” sex education has been as inneffective as abstinence-only education, because sexually transmitted diseases continue to increase. There is no such thing as safe sex. It is a life-effecting act that involves our body, mind, emotion, and spirit, and should be based on trust. But there’s nothing safe about that.

    2) An abstinence program was effective for ME. I was still a virgin when I married, and am proud of that. Virginity doesn’t necessarily mean naive. I know I’m not the only one.

    3) I was not brought up in church, or born in a Christian home.

    4) I started learning about God and the Bible when I was 15 going on 16. That changed my life, and over the years, I learned to treat women (and myself) with greater dignity, respect, reverence, and honoring them as created in God’s image.

    6) Sex is like a river. If it stays within it’s natural boundaries, it is powerful, life-giving, a great thing. But when it overflows it’s boundaries, it can become destructive. Boundaries can be a good thing. I know many of us disagree on what the boundaries are, that’s another can of worms.

    7) I am for a TRULY comprehensive sex education, and challenging students with words like purity, wisdom, and self-control is in the good interest of teenagers, as well as informing them about the science and psychology of sex.

    8) Abstinence, saving yourself for your future spouse, is a beautiful and powerful sign of devotion and dedication. Just because you failed to do so, don’t knock others who have done it.

    9) Many times, a refusal to confront guilt and deal with shame, a “no regrets” kind of attitude, drives us to attack the very things that raise living standards and could make our society better. Check the attitude of your innermost thoughts, and see if this isn’t you. It’s hard to appreciate the view from the mountain top when you’re stuck in the mud in the valley.

  • jodi-jacobson

    Dear Chris,

    It is not quite true that the “majority of Christians” believe that abstinence-only works because polling data shows over 80 percent of adults fully support funding for comprehensive sexual health education including but not limited to programs seeking to promote delay of sex among teens.

    It may well be that the majority of very “conservative” Christians, or the majority of very conservative Catholics and conservative evanglicals support ab-only (although I am not sure what is conservative about throwing money at programs proven not to work).

    It is unquestionably true that the institutional Catholic Church in the form of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the far right evangelical groups do support these programs in part because they are getting large amounts of money to run them irrespective of their efficacy. And I have not even gotten into groups like Focus on the Family.

    But I think we should realize that these decisions on funding have been made despite the harm they do by leaving people vulnerable, despite the fact they waste money, and despite public support for comprehensive funding. The bottom line is that our political agenda has been run for too long by a loud minority and it is time to stop.

    The only way that can happen is if we hold all our representatives and the Administration accountable for the right thing, and if we further ensure the media does not play into sensationalizing these issues over and over and over and over.

    thanks for writing. Jodi

  • jodi-jacobson

    Dear Steven,

    I appreciate that you wrote. However, here again I think you are making what is a common mistake.

    No one here is against people choosing to abstain from sex, for two years, five years, til marriage or forever. Certainly I am not.

    No one here is “against” virginity or “for” pressuring people to have sex.

    Rather, it is about letting all people have the information, skills, and methods available to them to make their own choices.

    Your choices are your own. They work for you. They fit for you. I would, as the saying goes, defend unequivocally your right to these choices without stigma or discrimination.

    However, there is nothing wrong either with sex among mature, consenting individuals whether inside or outside marriage, whether heterosexual, homosexual or whatever. Sex only until and inside your marriage is your right and your choice. Other people have the right to make other chioces. They also have basic human rights to information, education and services.

    Ab-only has been promoted as a government policy and has been found beyond defective. The government has no role in funding or promoting what is effectively a religious message. That is for houses of worship–without government funding–and for individuals to decide and promote on their own.

    As for comprehensive programs being defective: No evidence to prove this point. In fact the studies I have cited show quite the opposite. However the government has been funding ab-only programs for well over 10 years to the exclusion of others, and also we have a real problem in this society talking straight about sex. The lack of good information, education, and services as well as social stigmas around sex and sexuality are at fault for our problems. We only need look for guidance to the many European countries that have long supported comprehensive sex ed without all the drama, and which have with far lower rates of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

    Thanks again for writing. Jodi

  • invalid-0

    THANK YOU Steven Wayne Able!!
    Let’s teach young men and women the value of self-control, respect and delayed gratification, in one area of life, and they will benefit in all areas of life!
    Abstinence is not a religious belief, Jodi, it is the most effective prevention of pregnancy, STDs and emotional trauma. I’ve been there. You don’t even know what healthy is until you clean it all up and start living differently.
    I wish that freedom, health and joy for everyone reading this!

  • jodi-jacobson

    First please read my comments in which I underscore that individuals choosing to abstain until they marry have the right to their choices, as do people who choose to engage in mutually consensual sexual activity whether inside or outside of “marriage.”

    “Abstinence-only-until-marriage” is indeed based in a set of religious ideologies; these ideologies believe that heterosexual sexual relationships are the only valid relationships and also fail to realize that people can and do in fact enjoy safe, consensual sexual relationships without the sanction of church or state.

    The fact that so many of these programs are based on and reinforce social norms regarding the roles of women and men found in conservative religious ideologies is proof of this. Please read the reports cited in the article before you draw your own conclusions.

    As a mother, and as a matter of good policy, I agree that we should be concerned about early sexual initiation, and should encourage delay of sexual activity in teens for as long as possible. This is not the same as making them ashamed of sex, ill-prepared for sex or for negotiating sex, or leaving them unprepared for protected sex even within marriage.

    And to be honest, there is no evidence anywhere that at a population level that the *majority* of people abstain from sex until marriage.

    And abstinence is very effective when it is practiced unequivocally, and a complete failure once it is not. The fact that we have so much data now proving this point and that an increasing number of states are rejecting federal funding for abstinence-only programs is further proof that it is not an effective public health strategy.

    So I reiterate abstinence-only-until-marriage is a personal choice and should be the domain of individuals and those religious organizations that promote it (and not all do).

    With best wishes, Jodi

  • invalid-0

    Amen Jodi,
    -It is ok to have sex before marriage, and it is ok to wait until marriage to have sex.

    -Regardless people need to know how to protect themselves against STDs, HIV and unwanted pregnancies. Comprehensive sex education is not forcing anyone to have sex, just giving them the tools to make safe choices for when they do choose to have sex, whenever that is best for the individual.

    -As Jodi stated, abstinence-only does not include the GLBTQA population, their sexuality needs to be respected.

    Viva comprehensive science-based sex education!

  • invalid-0

    Does this education include the information from the CDC that condoms are only 50% effective in preventing many of the STDs?

    I am offended as an abstinence/character educator that you say that we make sex something to be ashamed of…I most certainly do not do that…instead I speak of the positives of sex when it is in a committed marriage. I also speak the facts about birth control…it is not 100% effective and therefore is risky with so many incurable STDs out there.

    We also focus a great deal on personal responsibility and self-control…if we continue to raise generations of kids who are told “this way is best, but if you can’t control yourself, try this and hope for the best” what will we have in the future? Would you say to your child “It’s best if you wait to drive the car until you have a license but if you feel you can’t wait then wear a seatbelt?”

    And, for what it is worth, my agency gets $0 from any government source, state, local or federal!!!

  • invalid-0

    Abstinence is always described as the only 100% way to prevent pregnancy, HIV and STDs with comprehensive sex education.

    -However, condoms are more than 50% effective, when used correctly and consistently they are actually 98% effective against pregnancy and when used typically they are 90% effective. You may want to check your information.

    -Hormonal methods such as the pill and nuva ring, perfect use is 99% effective, which typical use is 95% effective.

    -The IUD is 99.9% effective against pregnancy.

    In comprehensive sex education the fact that birth control such as depo, the pill, the IUD, nuva ring and so forth do not protect against STDs/HIV is also discussed, they are meant for pregnancy prevention, condoms are needed for STD/HIV prevention.

    You may want to check out the CDC

    Lying to people and spreading false information, which could potentially save their life is what is wrong here. Having safe sex isn’t wrong, having sex for pleasure, not with the intent of creating a pregnancy, is not wrong.

  • invalid-0

    I should qualify that I was not speaking about pregnancy rates in my previous post. I checked out the cdc website and could not find any % numbers. I think we also need to consider the possiblity that not all teens use condoms consistently and correctly…unfortunately. CDC says ” Inconsistent use can lead to STD acquisition because transmission can occur with a single act of intercourse with an infected partner.”

    I never said having sex was wrong for pleasure…I do it regularly. I do however think that some teens are not ready for these “adult” decisions that can have life altering consequences. I guess I just want to encourage teens to really put thought into their futures…it breaks my heart to see any of them with an incurable STD from a sexual relationship they aren’t even involved long term.

  • jodi-jacobson

    Let me take your comments in order….

    I believe you and many others who as yet, despite the mounting evidence, support abstinence-only-until-marriage as a public health policy fail to distinguish between risk reduction and risk elmination.  Safer sex reduces risk.  There is no evidence we can eliminate it and frankly we take risks when we walk across the street every day, so it is a standard impossible to meet in almost any area of life.  You can be safer by looking both ways and crossing at the green (not inbetween!) but you can’t eliminate risks of getting run over by someone who runs a red light.

    You say:

    Does this education include the information from the CDC that condoms are only 50% effective in preventing many of the STDs?

    Comprehensive, medically accurate sex education includes accurate information on sexually transmitted infections.

    As other posters have pointed out, your information on condom effectiveness is itself defective.  And I caution against using any information from the CDC unless it has been revised and released yesterday, because under the Bush Administration it has now been well-documented by many, including Government investigations by Congress, that CDC was providing inaccurate information under pressure from the religious right. These stats are wrong.

    You say:

    I am offended as an abstinence/character educator that you say that we make sex something to be ashamed of…I most certainly do not do that…instead I speak of the positives of sex when it is in a committed marriage.

     I do not mean to offend you.  I merely reiterate what I have said here numerous times.  Not everyone has sex *only* in a committed marriage.  (Let’s be real here: Not every "committed marriage" is as committed as it might seem, some very public examples being John Edwards, Henry Hyde (abstinence supporter extraordinaire who had a child out of wedlock), Bill Clinton, Larry Craig (married and closeted homosexual), Ted Haggard….need I go on here?).  In our culture, we do not recognize and celebrate diversity of sexual identity as given by God, we denigrate it.  Therefore, not everyone can even legally marry in a civil ceremony.  So from the get-go your construct is biased in favor of one ideological view of the world as you wish it to be, not as it is.  Comprehensive sexual health education–if done right–equips people with the skills they will need throughout their lifetimes to be able to negotiate consensual sexual relationships, desires, needs, pleasure, family planning where that is relevant, STI prevention where that is relevant, and so on. It’s the whole package; it’s not just the doughnut hole.

    Not everyone, including me, thinks you can only be responsible by having sex inside marriage.  My standard is mutually consenting mature individuals acting responsibly.  People have rights and responsiblities.  They have the right–its in the universal charter of human rights–to the information they need to make informed choices in health.  Sexual health education included.

    You say:

    I also speak the facts about birth control…it is not 100% effective and therefore is risky with so many incurable STDs out there.
    We also focus a great deal on personal responsibility and self-control..

    I would be inferring from your comments but I sense a bit of bias here in how you treat the subject.

    You say:

    If we continue to raise generations of kids who are told "this way is best, but if you can’t control yourself, try this and hope for the best" what will we have in the future? Would you say to your child "It’s best if you wait to drive the car until you have a license but if you feel you can’t wait then wear a seatbelt?"

    An excellent example, however I believe not used effectively.  Seatbelts are risk reduction.  We don’t say–you might get in an accident, never drive.  We do say, you need to be trained how to drive well, and hopefully also be equipped to be mature enough to handle it well, not drinking, no distractions, etc.  That still does not guarantee anything, but it is risk reduction.  Graduating from comprehensive sex ed is akin to getting your license.  You are supposed to have the tools to act responsibly, whether you have sex the next day, the next year, not for ten years or never.

    Thanks much, Jodi

  • invalid-0

    Do you ever find it OK to promote abstinence in any other areas? For example: smoking pot; protected, consensual sex between a 14 year old and a 28 year old; using cocaine; protected, consensual sex between a father and grown daughter; cigarette use; shooting up; etc. etc. — If you do promote abstinence in any of these situations (or others), why? On what do you base your beliefs?

  • jodi-jacobson

    these are not equivalent examples and are sensationalist.

    There is no such thing as "consensual" sex for a 14 year old with a 28 year old, nor for incest. Please don’t insult the intelligence of people working to promote both public health and human rights.

    Moreover, as someone whose brother battles drug addiction, I do not think that "abstinence" is the question there. It is a totally different phenomenon, about which I know from experience.
    Your questions originate by equating sex with disease and addiction and coercion. Sex is a natural, healthy human desire, biological drive, practice of intimacy, and can lead to procreation. It is not a disease and for the vast majority of people not an addiction. In those cases where that drive turns into an addiction it may be pathological. that is profoundly different than the norm.

    Comprehensive education is about healthy, safe, consensual sex between mature individuals. If you can’t figure out what that means than I can’t do it for you.

    And by the way….We do have an abundance, actually of teen sex in the world, in places like Uganda, Pakistan, parts of India, Nigeria, and elsewhere where girls are married from as early as the age of 9 and onward in order to protect their own and their family’s "honor," and where girls are expected from an early age to bear children, please their husbands, endure violence and coercion and the like.  They die at higher rates from childbirth and complications of pregnancy, they endure higher rates of violence and coercion, and they are more likely to live among the poorest of the poor.

    Is this ok because they are "married?"

    Frankly, as the mother of two, I trust my children to make good decisions based on good information. I am sorry if you feel your children need to be kept in a bubble of silence and ignorance.  But don’t extend your bubble to others who understand that as they grow and mature, children taught well grow into teens and adults who can handle complexity in life and choices; the majority of people want their kids to be raised with facts and good judgment and the skills to make good decisions, not in ignorance and naivete and with a lesson plan that equates safe consensual sex with the examples you outline above.

    These are simply ridiculous comparisons.

  • invalid-0

    she must be doing something right. You’re either ignorant or lying about condom rates.

  • invalid-0

    I’m an atheist, I don’t intend to get married or have kids, and I certainly do not want to live my life by your norms. Oh, and I’m in my early 40s, so if you start telling me that “I’ll feel differently when I’m older,” I’ll laugh at you.

    If there’s anything this country does not need more of, it’s xtians pushing their gawd crap onto the rest of us.

  • invalid-0

    Obama should enlist Bristol Palin as his leading spokesperson against Abstinence-Only programs. Who could possibly be more effective than Bristol Palin on this topic?

    Please visit my Blog: “Conservatives Are America’s Real Terrorists”

  • invalid-0

    I am not equating sex with disease, addiction, or coercion. I believe sex is a wonderful, beautiful expression of love given to us by God to be enjoyed and to produce children.
    I asked you a simple question. “Is it OK to teach abstinence in other areas?” Though you refused a direct answer, you know the answer is yes. My goal was to point out your hypocrisy. You have stated that the suggestion of sexual abstinence comes from a religious ideology. You are correct. It does. However, you fail to recognize that you, too, have a “line” you will not cross. I purposefully used sensationlism to bring you face to face with your own dogma. You expressed righteous indignation at the early marriages and treatment of teens in other parts of the world. My question is, “Why does this offend you?” Where do you get your belief that making girls marry at 9 years of age is wrong? I happen to agree with you, but I am not ashamed to admit that it comes from my religious beliefs. Where does your belief orginate?
    You say that “abstinence” is not the issue in regards to your brother. What else do you call it when you tell him, “Please don’t take drugs.” ??? Had he practice “abstinence” in regards to drugs, he would never have become addicted. (And don’t get offended. You’re not the only one in the world to struggle with or be affected by drug addiction.) The desire of most people who take drugs is to be happy. It may be the physical feeling that produces happiness. It may be the peer approval. Or, it may be the temporary feeling of well-being that produces the happiness. Happiness is a natural, healthy, human desire. No one would argue that happiness is an honorable goal and that all American citizen’s have the right to pursue it. However, when we see that in the pursuit of that happiness someone is engaged in behavior that is harmful and will eventually lead to the exact opposite of what they are wanting, we lovingly try to convince them to change that behavior. Obviously, they have the right to continue harming themselves, but we will do everything in our power to show them the truth. Drugs can be used for very good and wonderful purposes. It is only the abuse of drugs that is harmful. We tell children to “Just Say No” to drugs. We spend millions trying to communicate that message. But when we see thousands upon thousands of children choosing to take drugs, should we throw out the program? Of course not. Just because someone doesn’t follow the program, doesn’t mean the program is bad. I will continue to support “Just Say No” programs because IF the children will listen, it will protect them. I would NEVER support a program that said, “Just Say No”, but if you can’t bear it, be sure to use the clean needles I’ve provided. — Negative consequences are the natural results of negative decisions. Removing those consequences does not produce healthy, happy people. It simply delays the inevitable. — I have no doubt that you would prefer your brother to ABSTAIN from the HARMFUL use of drugs. NOT from a healthy use of drugs.

    Now, let’s go on to “comprehensive education is about healthy, safe, consensual sex between mature individuals.” You unkindly state that, “if I can’t figure out what that means, you can’t do it for me.” Hmmm. Let me see. First, you tell me that there is no such thing as consensual sex between a 14 year old and a 28 year old. Presumably that’s because a 14 year old is immature and susceptible to manipulation, coercion, etc. Yet, in the same breath, you claim that you want to “comprehensively educate” the very same IMMATURE 14 year old (who is unable to consent to sex) about how to SAFELY have sex with another IMMATURE 14 year old. After all, it is a natural impulse. While you may feel that they should wait until they are older, and you primly advise them to think this decision through; you boldly provide them with all the condoms or birth control they need in the name of safety. You foolishly think that this “comprehensive education” will equip these children to properly secure a condom in the heat of passion. The very same children that we mothers have to occassionally remind to pick up their dirty clothes, to wear their retainers, finish their homework, and be home at a decent hour. It is NOT sex education that is lacking, it is character education.

    Your final statements reveal your preconceived notions about what I believe. I said nothing in my original statement about my family, my beliefs, my feelings about sex, or a preferred curriculum. I didn’t even make a definitive statement for or against abstinence. Yet, in your prejudice, you jumped to unkind and ridiculous conclusions. You have a neat little cubicle in which you relegate all those who disagree with you in regards to abstinence. — You say that you trust your children to make good decisions based on good information. Your implication is that I do not. — And where in the world did you get the little vindictive, “you prefer to keep your children in a bubble of silence and ignorance.”??? Why would you say that? You obviously are letting your prejudices get the best of you again. I am neither silent nor ignorant. Neither are my children. My 15 year old son is standing over my shoulder right now, giving me advice on how to respond to your ignorant beliefs. He is eagerly anticipating a loving sexual relationship like his father and I have. We have taught him that abstinence before marriage is the healthy and natural way to help bring about a healthy and happy marriage. It reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancy, emotional trauma, and disease by 100%! Wow! With results like that, why WOULDN’T we teach it exclusively???
    You state that children who are taught well will grow into teens and adults who can handle complexity in life and choices…” I totally agree. We just disagree with what “teaching children well” is.

    Again, sex CAN be compared to drug use. Drugs are meant to heal; to bring life. The creators of our common drugs place labels on the bottles to give the healthy and safe parameters in which the drugs are to be taken. However, when taken outside of those parameters, they can harm the user. Though they may choose to ignore the “label”, the user should be warned to NEVER use drugs in a way that can harm them.

    In the same way, sex is meant to bring joy, pleasure, intimacy, and children. The creator of sex has given the healthy and safe parameters. However, it, too, can be used in such a way that harms. Those who have sex should be warned to NEVER use sex in a way that can harm them. Abstinence protects 100% against STD’s, unwanted pregnancy, and unhealthy emotional entanglements. Just because some people choose not to practice abstinence doesn’t mean we should change the “label.”

    Finally, you say, “the majority of people want their kids to be raised with facts and good judgment and the skills to make good decisions, not in ignorance and naivete and with a lesson plan that equates safe consensual sex with the examples you outline above.”

    I would count myself in that majority.

    FACT: Abstinence protects 100% of the time.
    GOOD JUDGMENT: Exercising self-control will protect you 100% of the time.
    SKILLS: Recognizing when you are at risk of having sex which could lead to disease or a child and making the GOOD DECISION to remove yourself to a safer setting.
    IGNORANCE: Believing that “safe” sex is safe.
    NAIVETE: Believing that condoms and birth-control allow children to misuse sex without consequences.

    Because abstinence is considered by you to be “religious ideology” you ignore the fact that it is also good, common sense. — Your prejudices, preconceived notions, and fear of absolute truth are causing you to lead others down a path toward depravity, depression, and despair.

  • jodi-jacobson

    Thanks, Windy, for writing. And I will apologize for crossing a line in seeming to insult you.

    However, you and I are talking about different things from profoundly different vantage points.
    I will try once again to be concrete here.

    There is nothing wrong with teaching abstinence. It is taught in every single comprehensive curriculum that exists.

    There is nothing wrong with you personally teaching your children to stay abstinent until marriage and for them to freely choose to adopt that but it is based on a reilgious ideology that excludes and denigrates diversity of sexual identity, and posits, as you say above, that saving sex for marriage is the only thing that is ok. 

    I am wondering: what if your son, or daughter, were to come to you and tell you they were gay?

    I do not agree with you as a general principle that there is anything wrong with two people having sex who are mutually consenting mature individuals.  We just have to agree to disagree. Moreover, the data show, and it is extensively documented here, that in fact the majority of teens ages 17 to 19 do become sexually active, and that the vast majority will not marry, if they do marry at all, for nearly a decade after they first become sexually active.  People need to have the skills, information, and tools to practice safer sex.

    The point is that your choices are based in your religious ideology and they are yours to make with your own family.  However, we live in a pluralistic society, and one in which reality also intrudes.  The breakpoint comes in the effort to expand and extend a specific religious ideology to all people using federal funding for programs that do not work.

    You are talking about your personal choices, which again I defend your right to make.

    But I am talking about federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that do not work.  Programs that provide misleading, biased and dangerous information, reinforce stereotypes and in the end do not achieve the results they purport to achieve.

    I am all in favor of encouraging delay in sexual activity as long as possible.  I am also a realist and know that the majority become sexually active before age 20 and the majority will continue to be sexually active for many decades thereafter.  

    I support the programs that are proven by the evidence to work.  This has nothing to do with what you teach in your own home.  This has to do with federal funding.

    Thanks, Jodi

    • invalid-0

      Thank you, Jodi, for your kind reply. I appreciate it. I agree with you that we need to “agree to disagree.” However, I think I need to clarify exactly WHAT we’re disagreeing upon. We are not disagreeing about trying to “force” someone to follow our religion. God, himself, gives us the right to choose him or reject him. Christianity teaches that it is NOT works (being good or following a certain set of rules) that makes us one of God’s children. As a matter of fact, Jesus blasted the religious leaders because their religion was outward rather than inward. So, for a true Christian to try to force someone to act a certain way for the purpose of conversion would be the antithesis of our message.
      My basis for wanting others taught abstinence-only is not out of a desire to push a religious ideology, but to protect children (and adults for that matter). I could feel that sex was fine whenever and however, but I would still teach abstinence only because it is the ONLY plan that works 100% of the time. You say that A-O programs do not work. You cite polls and percentages to support your belief. You and I both know that there are polls and percentages to support ANY belief; mine, yours, or anyone elses for that matter. Your side says we inflate figures, lie, and use deception in our polls, etc. Our side says you inflate figures, lie, and use deception in your polls. All you have to do is a Google search to see all the “evidence” for both sides. The question is, “Which method truly protects?” Not “Where did this method come from?” If you get right down to it, ALL of our laws find their basis in religious ideology. You cannot throw out a law/belief simply because of its origins. Murder, incest, rape, stealing, perjury, etc., ALL are laws based upon a religious ideology. They don’t “lose” their origins simply because everyone agrees that they are good laws. AO ALWAYS WORKS when it is practiced. When “safe sex” is practiced, it does not ALWAYS work. It’s that simple. Whether I’m a Christian, a Buddist, a Muslim, or something in between, abstinence is the ONLY method that protects 100% of the time. EVEN if I believe sex is OK in any consensual arrangement, safe sex simply doesn’t produce the results that abstinence does. I am not going to teach a method that is faulty simply to assuage the beliefs of those who are afraid that someone might be trying to tell them what to do.
      You state that Christianity excludes and denigrates sexual diversity. Christianity does exclude the practice of fornication, adultery, and homosexuality, but NOT the fornicator, adulterer, or the homosexual. If it did, none of us could call ourselves Christians.
      According to the dictionary, to denigrate means to deny the importance or validity; belittle. True Christianity in no way denigrates others, unless you equate denigration with disagreeing. Again, the PERSON is of utmost importance. We seek to validate the individual as a unique person created by God, not belittle. The differing beliefs of others are very important and others have a valid right to believe what they want.
      Christians stand accused of wanting to force our religious ideology on others. Can you not see that that is EXACTLY what you are doing? I am familiar enough with safe sex programs to know that safe sex is not taught within the framework of simple facts. The presenters, at the LEAST, imply that sex is OK in or out of marriage. At the WORST, and most often, children are taught outright your ideology of sex; it is OK in or out of marriage, hetero or homo. The “cute” little jokes and inuendo do more to encourage sexual activity than discourage it. Your teaching of sex is something akin to taking the most precious diamond in the world and putting it in a setting of tin. You are truly “denigrating” sex in that you deny the validity and importance of the act. — How is your teaching any different than what you are accusing us of? Your side says we are trying to cram our religious beliefs down your throats. That is exactly what YOU are doing. You are “screaming” at the top of your lungs via the internet, tv, radio, media, sensitivity training, safe sex programs, etc., your religious ideology. You are forcing us to spend our tax dollars supporting a program that is teaching our children YOUR religious beliefs. You refuse to relent until we all “bow the knee” to your religion. One of the definitions of religion is “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.” You have to admit that your side falls under that definition, just as we do.
      So, the true question is, WHOSE religious beliefs will be taught? I vote for the one that works! You state that we give misleading, biased, and dangerous information. What do we teach that is misleading, biased, and dangerous? Even if that were true, which it isn’t, the worst that could happen would be that someone would abstain from sex until marriage out of fear. Oh, horrors. They would be so afraid of getting a disease, getting pregnant, or suffering emotionally, that they would save sex for their spouse. I TOTALLY disagree that we are teaching misleading, biased, and dangerous information. My point is that even if it were true the results could be considered positive from a public health standpoint. So, in reality, you are not as concerned about public health as you are about personal rights. Your fear that someone might attempt to prevent a personal right trumps your concern of their health. One does not have to teach AO in a framework of religion. It is simply the safest practice.
      You are concerned, and rightly so, that whenever someone doesn’t listen to the abstinence only message that they will be put at risk. You are absolutely right. We cannot ignore that possibility. But how do we treat that eventuality? Let’s look at how we treat other areas.
      Driving, for example. We have laws that state that driving is only allowed at a certain age and with a license. I may personally feel that it is OK for a 14 year old to drive. (I did when I was 14.) THOUSANDS of 14 year olds drive every day.
      How do we treat THIS high risk behavior?
      Let’s look at smoking. We have laws that state that smoking is only allowed at a certain age. MILLIONS of young children smoke every day, regardless of our millions of dollars going to prevent it.
      How do we treat THIS high risk behavior?
      What about drinking? Same thing.
      What about walking in the middle of the road? Playing with fire? Running with scissors?
      Do you get my point? You may say that I am trying to equate sex with something bad, but I’m not. Sex, like anything else, has potential for good and bad. But unlike every other area in our lives, sex is the one place where we REFUSE to “just say no.” Why is it so wrong to equip young people with the ability to TURN AWAY from high risk behavior, rather than focusing on their individual right to have sex and how to avoid the consequences? I want to spend all my time and energy teaching children how to avoid a high risk behavior. You want to spend all your time and money trying to teach them how to participate in a high risk behavior. Who cares about where abstinence only originates? You don’t have to say that sex is “wrong” in these situations, it is simply unsafe. It would be much easier for a young person to learn to look ahead and avoid sexually tense situations than to find him or herself in a sex act and have to successfully protect themselves from the consequences. You would say that we should educate children on how to successfully have safe sex. I will point you to the evidence. You say that AO education isn’t working. Well, neither is safe sex education. STD’s, pregnancy, and depression are constantly on the rise. Neither “program” has done the job of preventing these things.
      So, to wrap it up, you point out that our argument is about federal funding. Now that I’ve thought about it, I suggest that we not spend federal money on EITHER of our religious views. I say leave sex education to parents. It is not the place of the government to interfere. In regards to sex, the schools should teach anatomy and biology, and leave the question of safe sex, abstinence, and morality to each individual family.
      Thanks for taking time to read my post.

  • invalid-0

    I agree that spending heavily on abstinence programs is not always such a great way to reduce spread of STDs amongst the young and lower teenage pregnancies. Speaking from the outside, as a Brit, we have huge problems in the UK with these issues. I believe most of societies problems can be put down to a lack of parental responsibilities. And it is the parents who should act against these problems.

    As a youngester i remember sex education as not being treated seriously, where as comments and advice by my parents would always be heeded.

    In the long term these issues need to be resolved to slow down population growth where many sit on benefits, which slows an economy’s growth and lowers everyone’s quality of life.

  • invalid-0

    I believe the abstinence only programs do not work and I respect the views of the conservative Christians. However, I don’t see why we can’t promote both abstinence and sexual education without it costing an excess amount of money. Why can’t we discuss abstinence along with educating youngsters in sexual activity, decisions, STD’s, pregnancies, etc.? It makes perfect sense to me that you would still discuss the option of abstinence. In addition, we need to teach parents how to talk to their children about sex because children may listen to their parents over what they hear in a classroom setting.

  • farhaj

    All Government departments should be aware that the money they are utilizing on meaningless expeditures are their peoples hard earned work and loyality. they should keep that in mind before becoming a spendthrift.
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