Mathematica Study and Abstinence-Only Education
Interim Report on Federally Funded Programs Released Today Does Not Conclude Abstinence-Only Programs are Successful
WASHINGTON, DC — Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs funded under the 1996 federal Welfare Reform Law have still not been proven effective in delaying sexual activity or reducing teen pregnancy, an interim report released today by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., shows. In addition, the interim report demonstrates important limitations of the evaluation process: it did not measure for behavioral change, did not include a representative sample of the programs, and was completely voluntary. Specifically, of the more than 700 federally funded abstinence-only programs, Mathematica evaluated 11, only four of which were evaluated for attitudinal impact. The other six programs evaluated are community-wide interventions that will be reviewed for implementation and process analysis only. None was evaluated for behavioral impact.
"This interim report does not show that abstinence-only programs are successful in actually reducing teen pregnancy or sexual activity rates among teenagers," said Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) Interim President Karen Pearl. "The report's findings clearly do not give adequate justification for the millions of dollars spent on federal abstinence-only-until-marriage programs."
In 1996, the federal government attached a provision to the Welfare Reform Law establishing a federal program for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. This program, Section 510(b) of Title V of the Social Security Act, dedicated $50 million per year to be distributed among states that choose to participate. States accepting the funds are required to match every four federal dollars with three state-raised dollars (for a total of $87.5 million annually, and $700 million for the eight years from FY 1998 through 2005). Programs that receive the Title V funding are prohibited from discussing methods of contraception, including condoms, except in the context of failure rates.
"We already know that comprehensive sexuality education programs have been proven to be effective," stated Pearl. "Existing research has already shown that comprehensive programs that include messages about both prevention and abstinence have been proven effective, and yet, federal and state governments continue to dump millions of dollars into abstinence-only programs that are not effective and, in fact, that have been shown to cause harm."
Furthermore, a December 2004 report released by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) looked at many of the curricula used in the programs reviewed by Mathematica, and found that they contain false, misleading, and distorted information about the risks of sexual activity. The report examined the accuracy of the most popular curricula used by federally funded abstinence-only education programs and found more than two-thirds of these programs distort information and mislead young people by giving them false information about abortion and contraception, particularly about the effectiveness of condoms.