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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”




Embargoed until:                                                                         CONTACT:  Debra Hauser 202/419-3420

Thursday, January 5, 2006                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Leading Medical Association Rejects Abstinence-Only Policies – Programs at odds with medical ethics and basic human rights

Advocates for Youth Calls for Moratorium on Federal Funding

Washington, DCThe Society of Adolescent Medicine, in one of the most exhaustive reviews to date of government-funded abstinence-only programs, has rejected current administration policy that promotes abstinence as the only sexual health prevention strategy for young people in the United States and abroad.

James Wagoner, President of Advocates for Youth, said:  “The report reads like an indictment. Abstinence-only is bad science, bad policy, and a blatant violation of medical ethics and basic human rights.  Enough is enough. The time has come for Congress to declare an immediate moratorium on federal funding for these programs. It is a national scandal that we have already spent over $1.1 billion of taxpayers’ dollars on programs that don’t work and that censor vital public health information for young people.


“It is time to restore sanity and common sense to our public health policy. The Society report is not anti-abstinence. It clearly supports abstinence as a strategy to protect young people’s sexual health. But the report makes clear that, to be effective, abstinence education needs to be delivered in a comprehensive context along with information on condoms and birth control.

“We have eight million young people under the age of 19 who are sexually active, yet 79% of junior high and 45% of high school teachers fail to teach about condoms. No wonder we have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease in the developed world!”

Among the highlights of the report:

Abstinence-only Programs Undermine Medical Ethics and Basic Human Rights

“We believe that current federal abstinence-only-until-marriage policy is ethically problematic, as it excludes accurate information about contraception, misinforms by overemphasizing or misstating the risks of contraception, and fails to require the use of scientifically accurate information while promoting approaches of questionable value.”

“Abstinence-only programs threaten fundamental human rights to health, information, and life.”

Abstinence Only “Works Every Time” – Think Again

“Based on our review of the evaluations of specific abstinence-only curricula and research on virginity pledges, user failure with abstinence appears to be very high.  Thus, although theoretically completely effective in preventing pregnancy, in actual practice the efficacy of abstinence-only interventions may approach zero.”

Abstinence vs. Abstinence Only

“There is broad support for abstinence as a necessary and appropriate part of sexuality education.  Controversy arises when abstinence is provided to adolescents as a sole choice and where health information on other choices is restricted or misrepresented.”

Abstinence-only Programs Negatively Impact Other Federal Policies

Citing the Administration’s requirement that U.S. AIDS relief programs abroad spend at least 33 percent of prevention dollars on abstinence-only programs, the report states:  “Human rights groups find that U.S. government policy has become a source for misinformation and censorship in these countries.  U.S. emphasis on abstinence may also have reduced condom availability and access to accurate information on HIV/AIDS in some countries.”

Note:  Report available at


Advocates for Youth is a national, nonprofit organization that creates programs and advocates for policies that help young people make safe, responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.

For more information or to set up an interview with adolescent sexuality experts, please contact Debra Hauser at 202/419-3420.