By Rachel Sheffield
A recent national study shows that the majority of U.S. parents and their teens support sexual abstinence before marriage. But the Obama Administration doesn’t want you to know this.
Early last year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) completed the National Survey of Adolescents and Their Parents: Attitudes and Opinions about Sex and Abstinence. Results show that the majority of parents favor abstinence and the abstinence message. However, while HHS released a brief summary of the results, when researcher Dr. Lisa Rue of the University of Northern Colorado requested to see the full report of the taxpayer-funded study, HHS repeatedly refused. They told her it was not public information. However, the study had been shared at two public venues.
Finally, at the beginning of this week, after pressure from the public, HHS released the full study.
Dr. Rue points out that taxpayers and citizens have a right to such information and that access to these results is necessary to aid in the designing of school and community sex education programs.
However, this may be precisely why the Obama Administration was reluctant to release the study. According to the National Abstinence Education Association:
[The study] calls into question whether recent sex education policy decisions truly reflect cultural norms or clear evidence-based trends.
Last year, President Obama eliminated all funding for abstinence education. While an amendment to the health care bill reauthorized $50 million for abstinence funding, also included in the bill was an additional $75 million funding stream for comprehensive sex education. Yet the results of the HHS study indicate that 70 percent of parents are opposed to premarital sex in general as well as for their teens. (The majority of teens also reported opposition to premarital sex.) Moreover, the study shows that 83 percent of parents support their teens receiving the abstinence message in school.
It’s no surprise that parents and teens support abstinence. Adolescents who abstain from sexual activity report greater academic achievement and lower rates of depression and are less likely to have a child outside of marriage. Furthermore, they are less likely to experience poverty or end up on welfare. A variety of abstinence education programs have shown positive benefits for youth, including at-risk youth.
Such a divide between Washington’s ideals and those of the people—in this case, parents and youth—is yet another example of a disconnected government pushing its own interests.
Instead of covering or simply ignoring the facts, policymakers would be wise to support measures that help youth remain abstinent. Parents—and even their teens—know that abstinence is best. It’s time the Obama Administration figured this out, too.