IS06B01Why Wait: The Benefits of Abstinence Until Marriage02/14/200602/15/2006Bridget Maher
1. Does abstinence education work? "The Waxman Report" by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), a long-time opponent of abstinence education, claims it is not effective.
There is plenty of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of abstinence education. Several studies published in peer-reviewed journals found that students participating in abstinence programs are more likely to delay sex, to view abstinence more positively and to have an increased knowledge of the negative consequences of premarital sexual activity.
The Waxman report accuses abstinence programs of creating gender stereotypes and of teaching inaccurate information about contraceptives, abortion, and human reproduction. However, almost all of the "scientific errors" contained in the Waxman report were not errors but rather medically accurate facts that the report took out of context or distorted.
2. Why should the government fund abstinence education?
Practicing abstinence-until-marriage is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
Two studies indicate that abstinence has contributed to the decline in unwed teen birthrates. 
3. Hasn't funding for abstinence programs increased in recent years?
Federal funding for abstinence education has increased during the Bush Administration, but comprehensive sex education programs are vastly over-funded in comparison.
In 2002, abstinence-until-marriage programs received $144.1 million in federal and state government funding, while contraception sex-ed programs received $1.73 billion in 2002. In other words, government spent $12 to promote contraception for every dollar spent on abstinence education.  Abstinence-until-marriage programs received about $176.5 million in federal funding in 2006, but there is still a lack of parity between these programs.
4. What's the difference between abstinence education and comprehensive sex education?
Comprehensive sex-ed programs encourage contraceptive use, assuming that young people will be sexually active. The underlying message in these programs is that sexual activity is okay for teens as long as they use "protection."
Abstinence-until-marriage programs teach young people that abstaining from premarital sex is the expected standard and that "personal happiness, love and intimacy are most likely to occur within the commitment of a faithful marriage." Abstinence programs teach relationship skills; goal setting; self-control; decision making; healthy personal and sexual boundaries; an understanding of sexual intimacy and human bonding; emotional and physical consequences of premarital sexual activity; and the benefits of saving sex for marriage.
5. Are teens open to the abstinence message, and can they successfully practice abstinence before marriage?
Teens view abstinence favorably. Almost all teens (94 percent) believe that teens should be given a strong message from society to abstain from sex until at least after high school. Also, two-thirds of all sexually experienced teens said they wished they had waited longer to become sexually active. Moreover, most teens think highly of virginity. In 2003, 73 percent of teens surveyed said they are not embarrassed to admit they are virgins.
Increasing numbers of high school students are practicing abstinence. The Centers for Disease Control reports that the percentage of teens who have had premarital sex declined during the 1990s. In 1991, 54 percent of teens said they had had sex, compared to 47 percent in 2003.  The decline was particularly notable among teen boys. In 1991, 57 percent of high school boys said they had had sex, compared to 48 percent in 2003.
Bridget Maher is an analyst on marriage and family issues in the Center for Marriage and Family Studies at the Family Research Council.