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Heritage Keepers Failing South Carolina Youth with Abstinence-Only Programs

New York, NYA study released last week by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. conducted for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows once again that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs—no matter how intensive—are not effective.  Students who attended a basic abstinence-only-until-marriage course and met weekly throughout the year to reinforce their abstinence training showed no difference in rates of abstinence, number of sexual partners, age of first sex, reported STDs, or reported pregnancies when compared to students who attended just the basic abstinence course.

“I can’t say that it’s surprising that students in the extended abstinence-only-until-marriage program didn’t change their behavior,” said Joseph DiNorcia, Jr., president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS),  “More of nothing is still nothing.” 

The newest study, which examined the program Heritage Keepers run by Heritage Community Services of South Carolina, compares students who took part in the mandatory abstinence-only-until-marriage programs with students who took part in the mandatory programs as well as the elective “Life Skills Education Component,” which met weekly for 45 minutes per session.  SIECUS’ reviews of curricula produced by Heritage found them to be based on messages of fear and shame and to include biased views on gender, marriage, and pregnancy options. The often- controversial Heritage Community Services received a whopping $1,232,780 of federal funding in Fiscal Year 2006.

“There’s only so much you can learn by comparing a failed program with an expanded version of that same failed program.  Still, this study has some disturbing results.  For one thing it found that more than a third of the students involved in the Heritage programs think condoms, even when properly used, never prevent HIV.  This kind of lack of knowledge is unforgivable,” DiNorcia said.

An earlier study by Mathematica, released in April, looked at four federally funded programs in diverse communities across the country and found no evidence that abstinence-only programs increased rates of sexual abstinence when students were compared to their peers who did not attend the programs. In fact, students in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs had a similar number of sexual partners as their peers not in the programs, as well as a similar age of first sex.

“The evidence is overwhelming —abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are failing our young people.  It’s time we stop pouring taxpayer money into them and start funding more comprehensive sexuality education programs,” DiNorcia concluded. 

To view the full report, visit: To view the SIECUS state profile for South Carolina in its entirety or to learn more about Heritage Community Services, visit: http://www.siecus.local/policy/states/2006/mandates/SC.html.  With any other questions or information requests contact Patrick Malone at or (212) 819-9770 ext. 316.