Abstaining From Ineffective Programs – By Emily Dietle

Posted by on May 26, 2012 in Featured, Guest Post, Thoughts | 3 comments

 I am on a blogging hiatus for a couple of weeks so I can concentrate on a larger project, which I’m sure you all will enjoy. In the meantime, I have invited a bunch super-smart authors, bloggers, vloggers, writers, clowns, and people with other interests to submit work here, just so the blog doesn’t stagnate. I hope you enjoy them. This piece was submitted by the wonderful atheist and feminist activist, and blogger at EmilyHasBooks.com, Emily Dietle. Emily’s Twitter account is @EmilyHasBooks so go follow her.

Martin S Pribble

Earlier this month, I signed a petition and emailed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about the inclusion of an abstinence only program in their “List of Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs,” called Heritage Keepers®. My argument was that abstinence only programs are not only NOT evidence-based, they are proven ineffective time and time again; even Fox “News” reported this.

The federal government now spends about $176 million annually on abstinence-until-marriage education. … Some lawmakers and advocacy groups believe the federal government should use that money for comprehensive sex education, which would include abstinence as a piece of the curriculum.

You see, while Heritage Keepers® programs claim not to be faith-based, they partner with and provide training resources to religious “community leaders” that seek to teach abstinence only education to teens. They pronounce boldly that they are “primarily interested in providing training and resources for faith and community leaders so they can, in turn, provide training for those in their community.” In other words, they are a religious organization parading as secular- and they are pushing their ineffective abstinence “education” upon our youth, using our tax dollars. The following is the letter I received in response to my email that expressed my disdain for HHS including this faith-based abstinence program in their list.

Thank you for sharing your views about the addition of the Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education program to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) List of Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs. The purpose of the review of program evaluations, and its periodic updates, is to identify programs that have demonstrated positive impacts on teen pregnancies, HIV or other STDs, and/or risky behaviors.

The evidence review process is overseen by an HHS workgroup that is made up of the Administration for Children and Families, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Office of Adolescent Health, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. In response to a public call for studies, a Heritage Keepers program evaluation study was submitted and found to be of moderate quality, as defined in the evidence review protocol, and that qualified it for inclusion on the HHS list. You can learn more about the evidence review protocol, the studies that were reviewed, and the programs on the list at http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/oah-initiatives/tpp/tpp-database.html

Office of Adolescent Health

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Rockville, MD 20852

What are we to take from this response? Well, HSS has good goals and intentions- but they don’t add up. They claim to want programs that have “demonstrated positive impacts on teen pregnancies, HIV or other STDs, and/or risky behaviors,” then add a program to their list that uses methods that don’t work. Abstinence-based education fails, and is only driven by a fear of healthy sexual dialogue that stems from religious paranoia and dogma about sex. Let’s have government-endorsed programs that don’t use our tax dollars to mix religion and health education; and moreover – Let’s teach our nation’s children how to lead healthy, responsible, and informed sex lives.

Emily Dietle is an outspoken atheist blogger, and organizer for the Houston Atheists. In her writing and activism, Emily focuses on state-church separation and social issues- including free-expression, LGBT, and women’s rights. | @emilyhasbooks http://emilyhasbooks.com


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  1. Government departments are confused that “evidence-based” means supporting programs that are evidenced. It’s naive because one can muster evidence for anything.
    It’s wrong to overlook expert opinion, the current academic consensus. Public funding of abstinence-only education is completely unjustified whilst it’s on the loosing side of the preponderance of evidence.
    Sometimes we needn’t even need into look at who’s making the claim. Religious lobby groups certainly have no qualms with mustering secular rationale to insist on christian teachings. ID being the case in point.

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  2. The system has also promoted the global rules and norms of how the school should operate and what is education

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  3. If not I realize and could not do it without having your tolerance . I change accumulation scarred this article to sound and zynga calculate intended for remark. Anyway realize it either way!

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  1. Contribution to Martin S. Pribble | emilyhasbooks - [...] “List of Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs,” called Heritage Keepers®.  … continue Posted Mon 28 May 2012 by Emily…

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