Obama Administration Backs Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Program

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cobalt/2686908458/sizes/m/in/photostream/">cobalt123</a>/Flickr

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Thought “abstinence only” education was a thing of the past, at least at the national level? Looks like it’s still part of the officially sanctioned curriculum from the US Department of Health and Human Services for teen pregnancy prevention.

The HHS Office of Adolescent Health lists the Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education as one of the 31 “evidence-based programs” that “met the effectiveness criteria” for preventing teenage pregnancy. RH Reality Check flagged its inclusion on Tuesday, noting that the program was quietly added to the list sometime in April. The program is based in South Carolina and focuses on schools in the state.

The Heritage program is aimed at middle and high schoolers and advocates abstaining from sex until marriage. Heritage Community Services, which created the curriculum, describes its programs as “a logic model that addresses the risky behavior of adolescents from the perspective of changing the behavior that is causing the problem rather than dealing with the consequences of the risky actions.”

The HHS fact sheet on the program lists five different sections, on topics like “sexual abstinence” and “family formation.” The “STD Facts” section “discusses how to refuse sex in different settings.” Students are also taught a “four-step plan for resisting sexual activity,” and provided with “role-playing exercises to help students practice it.” In other words, don’t count on learning anything along the lines of what young people should do if they are having sex. There’s no talk about condoms or birth control. And if you’re gay, forget about it.

The RH Reality Check piece notes that an August 2007 report on the Heritage program prepared for HHS found that it “had little or no impact on sexual abstinence or activity.” So it’s not exactly clear why it’s on a list of “evidence-based programs” that “met the effectiveness criteria” for HHS. 

Yet the Heritge website now proudly boasts that it is “the only authentic abstinence education program in the United States identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as having demonstrated it’s [sic] effectiveness.”

 

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate