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Emerging Answers 2007 – Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and STDs Released

The Verdict is In: Comprehensive Sex Ed Works, Abstinence-Only Doesn’t

NEW YORK, NY— Today, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy released Emerging Answers 2007, a report authored by Dr. Douglas Kirby, a leading sexual health researcher, discussing what programs work in preventing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. 

“We have seen a significant decrease in teen pregnancy since the mid-1990’s,” said Martha Kempner, vice president for information and communications at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).  “While the number of teen pregnancies is still way too high, we are encouraged by the progress being made.  Emerging Answers 2007 identifies the programs and factors that are the engines behind this progress.  We are not at all surprised that the programs that seem to work best in positively affecting sexual behavior are those that teach about contraceptive and condom use as well as abstinence, and that actively engage students with interactive materials,” continued Kempner.      

Of the 48 programs examined in the study that supported both abstinence and the use of condoms and contraceptives, a full two-thirds showed positive behavioral effects.  “Specifically, over 40 percent of the programs delayed the initiation of sex, reduced the number of sexual partners, and increased condom or contraceptive use; almost 30 percent reduced the frequency of sex (including a return to abstinence); and more than 60 percent reduced unprotected sex.” (Emerging Answers 2007, p 15).  At the same time, the report notes that there is strong evidence that abstinence-only programs do not have any impact on teen sexual behavior.

“If the debate between the merits of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and comprehensive programs is truly about what works best in helping young people make good decisions, then that debate is over,” said William Smith vice president for public policy at SIECUS.  “The data is in: abstinence-only-until-marriage programs don’t work and policymakers need to muster the political courage to end funding for these failed and ideologically driven programs that are a left-over from Gingrich-era extremism having free rein in the Congress. The next step, of course, is to create dedicated funding for comprehensive sexuality education by passing bills like the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act.  It’s common sense,” concluded Smith.

Emerging Answers 2007 is the third in a series of reports (along with No Easy Answers (1997) and Emerging Answers (2001)) which evaluates what types of programs work in reducing teen pregnancies and STDs in communities.

Contact Patrick Malone at (212)819-9770 ext. 316 or with any questions.