- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2007

Congress again has extended funding for a core abstinence-education program, sparking protests from sex-education advocates who want Democrats to pull the plug on such programs.

“Their actions defy logic and common sense,” said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth.

First, Congress funds what Mr. Wagoner called unproven abstinence programs. Then it commissions a study that shows they don’t work, but lawmakers ignore those results and continue to fund the programs.

“Teens deserve better policies. We all deserve better leaders,” said Mr. Wagoner, whose organization stresses rights, respect and responsibility in sex education.

Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said he supported “with frustration” the second three-month extension of the $50 million Title V abstinence-education program and several health programs that serve low-income families.

The health programs are effective, but unfortunately they are “held hostage” to the abstinence program, “which prizes ideology over science and … harms our children through the provision of medically inaccurate information,” Mr. Moran said Wednesday. The Senate passed its extension of Title V and other health programs on Thursday.

Abstinence supporters have been playing defense, especially since April when Mathematica Policy Research Inc. released a long-awaited evaluation of four abstinence programs. It concluded that the programs didn’t affect teen sexual behavior.

“Abstinence programs don’t as yet have a long track record,” Janice Shaw Crouse of the Beverly LaHaye Institute wrote in a paper called, “Why the Left is Attacking Abstinence Programs.”

Mathematica studied teens who received abstinence education when they were ages 9 to 11, but received no follow-up, Mrs. Crouse said. However, 12 other studies on abstinence compiled by the National Abstinence Education Association indicate “remarkable effectiveness,” she said.

Separately, a federal study released this year showed that most Americans have their first sexual experience in their teens and have six or fewer sexual partners in their lifetime.

About 57 percent of Americans had sex before age 18, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) said in a June report based on data collected between 1999 and 2002 from more than 6,000 adults ages 20 to 59.

A generation gap was evident: Sixty-seven percent of adults in their 20s said they had sex by age 18, compared with 44 percent of adults in their 50s.

“The younger the age group is, the more likely that they would have had sex at an earlier age,” NCHS health statistician Cheryl Fryar said.

The report also showed that 69 percent of women and a bare majority of men — 50.4 percent — had six or fewer sex partners in their lifetimes.

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