New Report Shows Teen Sex Rates Dropped Before Abstinence-Only Ed Push

According to a new report released this month by the US Forum on Child and Family Statistics, the rate of high school students engaging in sexual behavior decreased before abstinence-only sex education became heavily funded and promoted in 2001. In 1991, 54.1 percent of high school students reported having sexual intercourse. By 1999, that number was down to 49.9 percent, with an additional drop to 45.6 by 2001. Between 2001 and 2005, the change in the proportion of students having sex is statistically insignificant, despite greater prevalence of abstinence education programs.

The report also shows an increase in condom use among high school students having sex. In 1991, 46 percent of sexually active teens used condoms, compared to 63 percent in 2005.

Likely because of both less sex and more condom use, the rate of births among 15- to 17-year-olds has been steadily declining. Between 1991 and 2005, the adolescent birth rate dropped more than two-fifths, resulting in a record low teen birth rate in 2005 of 21 births per 1,000 women aged 15-17. According to the New York Times, out of all the states, Texas has experienced the smallest decline in teen pregnancy and birth rates, even though the state draws the highest amount of abstinence-only funding at $17 million.

Despite such data and an April 2007 Mathematica report commissioned by the government showing that abstinence education doesn’t work, battles over funding abstinence education continue. Last month, the Senate cut funding for abstinence education out of Bush’s budget for fiscal year 2008, while the House approved Bush’s increase. Ohio, California, Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have adopted policies of refusing federal funds that are tied to abstinence-only curricula.


Forum on Child and Family Statistics report 7/07; New York Times 7/18/07; Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report 7/18/07; Salon.com 7/19/07

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