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Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Holds Historic Hearings on Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs SIECUS Applauds Commitment to Scientific Integrity

For Immediate Release: April 23, 2008

Contact: Patrick Malone at (212) 819-9770 ext. 316


Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Holds Historic Hearings on Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs

Washington, DC – Today, the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Chairman Henry Waxman (CA-30), held the first ever hearing on the effectiveness of federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.  Leading medical and sexual health experts from across the country testified on the ineffectiveness of the programs.

“We are very grateful to the Committee and Chairman Waxman for holding this important and long-overdue hearing, as well as to Congresswoman Lee and other champions of a real approach to sex education in the House and Senate,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).

"Continuing funding for ineffective abstinence-only programs makes no sense. We should absolutely be teaching young people about abstinence, but we shouldn’t be holding back information that can save lives and prevent unwanted pregnancies. We need to get real about sex education and that means providing comprehensive sex education," said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-9), author of H.R.1653, the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act, which would establish the first ever federal funding for comprehensive sex education.

Since 1982, the federal government has spent over $1.5 billion on unproven abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.  Under President Bush spending on these programs has increased exponentially with $800 million having been spent during the current administration and more than $175 million allocated in Fiscal Year 2008 alone.  These programs are prohibited from discussing contraceptives except in the context of failure rates and have never been proven to be broadly effective. 

Numerous studies over the past year have shown that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs do not work.  An April 2007 study commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services, and conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. shows that these programs have no positive effect on the sexual behavior of youth.  At the same time, Emerging Answers 2007, a report authored by Dr. Douglas Kirby, a leading researcher on adolescent health, showed that comprehensive sex education programs hold the most promise for lowering the rates of teen pregnancy and STDs.

Witnesses at the hearing today included Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association; Dr. Margaret Blythe, Chair of the Committee on Adolescence, American Academy of Pediatrics; and Dr. John Santelli, a leading sexual health researcher.  All of these witnesses and every major, national health organization, opposes abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

“The teen birth rate is on the rise.  Data from the CDC shows that one in four teenage girls has an STD.  Clearly, an entire generation of young people is growing up without the comprehensive sexuality education they need to protect themselves,” Smith said.  “We hope this hearing brings to Congress the overwhelming evidence that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are ineffective, potentially harmful to youth, and should no longer receive federal funds.  We all want to help more young people abstain and delay sex and the evidence shows us that comprehensive sex education will get us there, not the failed abstinence-only-until-marriage approach,” concluded Smith.

For more information about the hearing or on failed-abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, please contact Patrick Malone at (212) 819-9770 ext. 316 or