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Report: Abstinence-Only Programs Don’t Work

November 12, 2007

Minneapolis, MN – A new report finds programs that focus solely on abstinence aren't working, even though they're getting the lion's share of federal funding for sex education in schools. Lorie Alveshure, policy director for the Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Parenting, says she's not surprised by the study, which was conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

"There has been a significant amount of evidence that shows that 'abstinence only until marriage' programs do not affect adolescent behavior; and that comprehensive sex education programs do have positive behavior outcomes."

She says 18 Minnesota teens become pregnant every day, an annual total of more than 67,000. While this number is slightly below the national average, Alveshure believes the best way to reduce the numbers even further is to use a varied approach to get out the message about the consequences of unwanted pregnancy, and how to avoid it.

"The components of effective sex education programs should work, both to prevent teen pregnancy and risk-taking behaviors that lead to sexually-transmitted infections and HIV. These components include include abstinence, refusal skills, the use of condoms and contraception, and sexual decision-making."

Alveshure explains teenaged parents and their children both face hardships from unplanned pregnancies. She says being raised by a young and often immature parent can have lasting health and social problems for children, including not receiving the early care they need to prepare them for school. She explains these disadvantages can have a lifetime impact.

"Teen mothers do face additional challenges as they grow into adults. They're more likely to struggle with graduating from school or attaining G.E.D. status. They're more likely to become single parents, and also more likely to live in poverty."

Alveshure believes the most effective way to reach teens is to offer them messages that include a variety of smart choices; she says the new study is additional evidence that this type of varied approach works to reduce teen pregnancy. More information is available online, at

Jim Wishner/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MN