Ohio abstinence-education programs contain false information and disregard the needs of sexually active or homosexual youths, according to a new report from a public health professor.
One abstinence program, for example, tells teens they should “be prepared to die” if they use condoms because the contraceptives are likely to slip off or break, Scott Frank, a professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said in a report released yesterday.
However, “an authoritative study” by Consumer Reports magazine found that “with correct use,” condoms break as little as 2 percent of the time and slip off as little as 1 percent of the time, said Dr. Frank, a family physician who directs the university’s public health division.
Abstinence-until-marriage programs also fail to provide information needed by youths who are sexually active and homosexual youths, Dr. Frank said.
Abstinence is an important part of sex education, he added, but the federal definitions for abstinence education too often “tie the hands of educators.”
Congress should consider broadening the definitions so federal funds can be used to meet “a full range of teen needs,” he said, adding that abstinence curricula should be reviewed by experts and abstinence teachers should be credentialed in sexual and reproductive health.
Abstinence supporter Libby Gray said the Case report was “another veiled attempt” to steer schools and communities back to failed sex-education programs.
Project Reality and other abstinence programs give teens medically accurate information about disease and pregnancy, and teach refusal skills and life skills — not “condom skills,” said Miss Gray, who directs Project Reality in Glenview, Ill.
The Case report is, itself, “riddled” with inaccuracies about abstinence programs, said Catherine Tijerina, executive director of the Ridge Project, which oversees abstinence education in 11 Ohio counties.
Dr. Frank’s suggestions that abstinence education doesn’t work or that teens are denied contraceptive-style sex education are untrue, she said. Research shows that teen birthrates are falling more because of sexual abstinence than contraceptive use, she said.
But others are applauding Dr. Frank’s work.
Dr. Frank’s report “provides yet more evidence to Congress that the [Bush] administration is failing miserably on oversight of these [abstinence] programs,” said Bill Smith, public policy leader of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, which supports comprehensive sex education.
Later this week, Mr. Smith said, a congressional committee led by Rep. Ralph Regula, Ohio Republican, is slated to consider new federal funding for abstinence education. Mr. Regula and his colleagues “have an incredible opportunity to send a clear message of ‘no new money’” for abstinence programs, he said.
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