Home | Contact Us | News Weekly Articles


Babette Francis, March 6, 2010

Sex education programs that encourage children to remain celibate can persuade a significant number to delay sexual activity, according to a landmark study funded by a federal grant from the US government.

Only a third of the 6th and 7th grade American students who participated in an abstinence-only program started having sex in the next two years, the study found, while nearly half the students who attended other classes became sexually active.

The results provided the first evidence that abstinence-based programs could work, just as the Obama Administration cut about US$170 million from these programs. Abstinence-education had flourished during the Bush years.

“I think we’ve written off abstinence-only education without looking closely at the nature of the evidence,” said John Jemmott, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who led the study. “Our study shows this could be one approach that could be used.”

The study, involving black middle-school students, appears in the February 2010 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, a publication of the American Medical Association. It found the students in the abstinence program showed lower levels of sexual activity even two years later.

The National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) told LifeNews.com that the study shows positive outcomes for high-risk, African-American, middle school students. The NAEA’s Valerie Huber reported: “The study shows that a high-risk population of 6th and 7th graders receiving abstinence-centred education reduced sexual initiation, reduced the number of sexual partners (a crucial determinant in acquiring an STD), and further showed that abstinence instruction did not deter the use of condoms (a common charge brought by anti-abstinence critics).
“The need to provide American parents with choices regarding the type of sex education their children are offered not only respects local control but underscores the fact that abstinence-centred education is an important response to the complex issue of teen sex. “Federal funding guidelines require all abstinence-centred education to be theory-based, medically accurate, and focused exclusively on health — the very tenets that describe the studied abstinence program. “The Obama Administration completely eliminated abstinence education from the 2010 budget, a rash and imprudent decision that jeopardises the sexual health of America’s youth. The positive outcomes of this study provide President Obama important data for his 2011 budget recommendation to Congress. We urge a crucial course adjustment in funding so that abstinence-centred education can continue to work to reach teens.”

Conservative writer, Robert Rector, commented on the new study in the conservative magazine National Review. He wrote: “Employing state-of-the-art evaluation techniques, the study used random assignment to place students into four groups: a group that received instruction solely in abstinence; a safe-sex group instructed in contraceptive use; a comprehensive, or mixed message, group taught both abstinence and contraceptive use; and a control group that received health education unrelated to sex.

“Students in the abstinence program were one third less likely to initiate sexual activity when compared to students in the other three groups. By contrast, safe sex and comprehensive sex-ed classes had no effect on student behaviour; students in these classes did not reduce sexual activity nor increase contraceptive use when compared to the control group.”

The study was conducted by Drs John and Loretta Jemmott of the University of Pennsylvania. “Prior to the current study, there had been 15 scientific evaluations of abstinence education, 11 of which had shown that abstinence programs were effective in reducing sexual activity,” Rector noted. “However, the new Jemmott study is the first evaluation showing positive results which employed full random assignment.
As a result, it cannot be dismissed on methodological grounds.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s Labor Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard says that federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s advice to his daughters to delay sex before marriage has “confirmed the worst fears of Australian women about him”. Worst fears? She has even asserted that Australian women fear Tony Abbott’s advice on abstinence more than they fear his views on global warming.

Cervical cancer
However, confirmation for Tony (“Lock Up Your Daughters”) Abbott’s old-fashioned values comes from a recent study which found that 56 per cent of young adults in a new sexual relationship were infected with the sexually-transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV), a virus which condoms cannot protect against and which is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Of those infected with HPV, nearly half (44 per cent) were infected with an HPV type that causes cancer.

The study, led by Professor Eduardo Franco, director of McGill University’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit, in collaboration with a team of colleagues from McGill and Université de Montréal/Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), was published in the January 2010 issues of Epidemiology and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

Babette Francis is national co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc., an NGO having special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC).



Member Organisation, World Council for Life and Family

NGO in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the UN