Abstinence-Only Curricula Misleading, Report Says

By Vaishali Honawar — December 07, 2004 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Students who take part in some abstinence-based sex education programs financed by the federal government are learning that touching another person’s genitals can result in pregnancy and that sexual activity can lead to mental-health problems, says a report prepared for a leading congressional critic of such programs.

The report, “The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs,” is available online from the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee. ()

Some of the curricula used in “abstinence only” programs blur science and religion, and solidify stereotypes such as that girls are weak and in need of protection and that men are sexually aggressive and lacking in emotion, says the report released last week by U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif.

“Something is seriously wrong when federal tax dollars are being used to mislead kids about basic health facts,” Rep. Waxman said in a statement.

The Bush administration has been a strong proponent of abstinence education. The fiscal 2005 federal budget includes $170 million for such programs, double the amount spent in fiscal 2001.

But the report from the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee says that abstinence-only education does not appear to decrease teenage pregnancy or the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. It studied the 13 most commonly used abstinence curricula and found 11 to contain “major errors and distortions of public-health information.”

None of those 11 curricula teaches basic facts about contraceptives, although sex education that discusses both abstinence and contraceptive use has been shown to encourage teenagers to delay sex and reduce the frequency of sex, the report says.

Dr. Joe S. McIlhaney Jr., the director of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health in Austin, Texas, which developed much of the curricula, said the report “twisted” his information. His materials never claimed, for instance, that people’s touching of each other’s genitals could result in pregnancy, he said.

“Our quote was mutual masturbation can result in pregnancy,” he said, adding that he had come across such a case when he practiced as a gynecologist.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal What Works Clearinghouse: Inside 20 Years of Education Evaluation
After two decades of the What Works Clearinghouse, research experts look to the future.
4 min read
Blue concept image of research - promo
Federal One of Kamala Harris' First Campaign Speeches Will Be to Teachers
Vice President Kamala Harris will speak to the nation's second-largest teachers' union at its convention in Houston.
1 min read
Vice President Kamala Harris campaigns for President as the presumptive Democratic candidate during an event at West Allis Central High School, Tuesday, July 23, 2024, in West Allis, Wis.
Vice President Kamala Harris campaigns during an event at West Allis Central High School in West Allis, Wis., on Tuesday, July 23, 2024. Harris will speak at the American Federation of Teachers convention on Thursday, July 25.
Kayla Wolf/AP
Federal AFT's Randi Weingarten on Kamala Harris: 'She Has a Record of Fighting for Us'
The union head's call to support Kamala Harris is one sign of Democratic support coalescing around the vice president.
5 min read
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, speaks at the organization's annual conference in Houston on July 22, 2024.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, speaks at the organization's biennial conference in Houston on July 22, 2024. She called on union members to support Vice President Kamala Harris the day after President Joe Biden ended his reelection campaign.
via AFT Livestream
Federal Biden Drops Out of Race and Endorses Kamala Harris to Lead the Democratic Ticket
The president's endorsement of Harris makes the vice president the most likely nominee for the Democrats.
3 min read
President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference July 11, 2024, on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference July 11, 2024, on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington. He announced Sunday that he was dropping out of the 2024 presidential race and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris as his replacement for the Democratic nomination.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP