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Education Reporter

Abstinence-Until-Marriage Programs Grow in Popularity
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WASHINGTON, DC - Proponents of comprehensive sex education have released the results of two nationwide studies that indicate a growing acceptance of abstinence-until-marriage programs. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 34% of public high school principals say that their schools' main sex education message is: "Young people should only have sex when they are married." A similar study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that, of 825 school district superintendents surveyed, 35% have a policy requiring abstinence-until-marriage programs in their districts.

These results were announced last month at a press conference in Washington, D.C. entitled, "Are Schools 'Just Saying No?' Is Abstinence-Only the Trend in Sex Education?" The briefing was designed to educate journalists about what "comprehensive" sex education proponents consider to be the "apparent danger" abstinence-centered programs pose to contraceptive-based programs.

According to Kathleen Sullivan, director of Project Reality, an organization promoting and distributing abstinence-until-marriage curricula, these studies should be "a cause for rejoicing among abstinence advocates nationwide."

Mrs. Sullivan noted that the results of the Kaiser and Guttmacher studies were announced less than a week after the American Medical Association (AMA) issued its controversial report advocating the distribution of condoms in the public schools. "It's amazing that the AMA, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Alan Guttmacher Institute seem to be disturbed about the growth of abstinence-until-marriage programs in our nation's schools," she said. "Any organization concerned about the emotional and physical health of adolescents ought to be pleased that superintendents, principals and teachers are promoting this healthy lifestyle among their students."

Cory L. Richards, vice president for public policy at the Guttmacher Institute, stated, "It is unconscionable for young people who attend schools in one-third of districts to be denied basic yet vital information for preventing unplanned pregnancy and STDs. This should be of deep concern to parents in this country."

Observes Mrs. Sullivan: "These groups are apparently concerned that their brand of sex education is losing popularity, not only among youth, but among school administrators as well."

Abstinence-education advocates caution that, while the results of these studies are encouraging, the Kaiser Foundation only surveyed 313 school principals. "Abstinence advocates have been able to accomplish an incredible turn-around in the education system's attitudes and beliefs with a small fraction of the resources and much less political power," Kathleen Sullivan points out, "but we still have much work to do."

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