The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on Wednesday to assess the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs in the US. The Washington Times reports that for years, researchers have urged Congress to get rid of abstinence-only programs because studies have shown that they are ineffective and potentially harmful to teens. Senator Sam Brownback and Representative Lois Capps were scheduled to testify along with representatives from the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Health and Human Services, public health specialists, and researchers.
Vania Leveille, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Washington Legislative Office, told ACLU, “The evidence leads to only one conclusion: abstinence-only programs represent a failed policy. They are driven by ideology and politics, rather than by science or good public health policy, and our young people are suffering as a result. Most troubling, they represent a purposeful campaign to mislead, distort, stifle and censor, and are part of a disturbing trend to politicize science. The ACLU urges congressional action to bring this failed policy to an end.”
Dr. John Santelli testified at the hearing about the failure of abstinence-only programs. His testimony underlines the importance of comprehensive sexuality education programs to delay sexual initiation and inform teens about sexual health. Abstinence-only programs are proven to withhold information or include misinformation about reproductive health, especially contraceptive use. This is more alarming given the high rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among teens in the US.
Reuters reports that abstinence-only programs have received $1.3 billion in federal funds since the late 1990s. Seventeen states currently refuse federal funding for abstinence-only programs.