June 20, 2005 – A Washington, DC-based conservative think tank released two studies purporting to show the successes of abstinence-only sex education classes last week, only to have the methodology and conclusion questioned by peers.
The studies were based on research funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, and conducted for the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The studies report that people who take so-called virginity pledges are less likely to engage in high-risk sexual activity or contract sexually transmitted diseases, a direct refutation of other studies on the issue.
Earlier this year, a widely cited study by two professors, Hannah Bruckner of Yale and Peter Bearman of Columbia, found that young people who have not had comprehensive sexual education are as likely to contract STDs as their peers who have, even though they had not been sexually active as long. Additionally, the study found that teen pregnancy was less of a problem with students who learned to view contraceptive use in a positive light.
A study by Scott Frank of Case Western Reserve University released earlier this month found may of the same problems with abstinence-only education in Ohio schools as the Bearman and Bruckner study found nationally, in addition to reporting that the programs encourage negative gender stereotypes.
In a House subcommittee appropriations mark up session earlier this month, abstinence-only education programs recently received a $39 million boost in proposed federal funding for 2006.
The Heritage Foundation and Bearman and Bruckner studies used the same set of DHHS data, though the measurements reported by the Heritage Foundation relied on a less stringent statistical benchmark than most scientific journals accept for publication.