Abstinence Only


Abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs were designed with the hope of preventing adolescents from engaging in premarital sexual activity. Federal funding for abstinence-only programs began during the Reagan administration in 1981, and grew exceedingly until 2006, when funding leveled. At least $1.5 billion has already been spent. Although abstinence is a healthy option for teens, many viewed it as the primary mode of sex education; other options were restricted or misrepresented, and more comprehensive sexuality education was not funded. 


The overwhelming body of research on abstinence-only sex education shows such programs to be ineffectual at best, and potentially counterproductive in practice. In fiscal year 2010, two discretionary federal funding streams for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs were eliminated and the third expired. In March 2010, some funding was resurrected as part of the health care reform package.