Representative Bill Sali (R-Idaho) on Wednesday spoke during a U.S. House hearing on abstinence-only government programs, saying such programs were effective at promoting healthy relationships and contributing to a decline in teen pregnancy in ways that did not offend the moral and religious convictions of many communities.
In a statement to the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the congressman said abstinence education stresses the social, psychological and health benefits of abstinence while teaching that abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage is “the expected standard for all school age children.” He cited a Heritage Foundation study released April 22 that analyzed 21 studies of abstinence programs. The study reported that 16 of the studies claimed positive findings about such programs’ effectiveness.
“Unfortunately, most Americans don't even know what teens are being taught in sex education classes, abstinence-based or otherwise,” Rep. Sali said.
Rep. Sali said that effective abstinence education teaches teens far more than to say “just say no” to sex. He said they also promote risk-avoidance to young people.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “most of America does not know that abstinence education does teach teens about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including symptoms and modes of transmission along with the relative effectiveness of contraception methods.”
Sali also noted that abstinence education programs aim to educate without engaging in the “explicit demonstrations” that most parents and communities reject as “distasteful” and even a violation of moral and religious convictions. The programs teach how to build healthy relationships and how to avoid unhealthy relationships, which Sali said often lead to sexual coercion and abuse. The programs also teach how to avoid dangerous alcohol and drug use, which can lead to sexual activity.
“Abstinence education is a complete approach to teaching teens about sexuality,” he said. Rep. Sali claimed that since Congress began funding Community Based Abstinence Education, abstinence education has been credited for part of the decline in teen pregnancy.
Rep. Sali expressed shock about manuals labeled comprehensive sex education, saying he was “stunned” to see that Center for Disease Control-approved curriculum encouraged young people to shower together or cuddle naked, “along with other behaviors I would frankly be embarrassed to discuss before this Committee.”
These behaviors, he said, were considered abstinent behavior in the “most widely used ‘comprehensive’ sex education curricula.”
“I would wager that everyone on this committee understands where showering together and cuddling naked will lead,” Rep. Sali said. “No one in this room could honestly believe that those kinds of actions will promote abstinence. In fact, quite the opposite.”
He said no parent would want their children to perform such acts. Rep. Sali also argued such “graphic messages” cannot be equated with effective sex education and did not belong in schools, “especially at taxpayer expense.”
“Abstinence education offers a real alternative – one that is tested, practical and respects the beliefs and concerns of Moms and Dads across the country. Let’s give it a fair hearing and a healthy dose of support,” Rep. Sali concluded.