Critic denounces Guttmacher teen pregnancy study as 'terribly simplistic'

Valerie Huber of the NAEA.
Valerie Huber of the NAEA.


The Guttmacher Institute released a study on Jan. 26 claiming that abstinence-only education programs are to blame for a rise in teen pregnancies and abortions in 2006. However, abstinence education proponent Valerie Huber is denouncing the researchers' conclusions as “terribly simplistic” and “disingenuous.”

In a press release on Tuesday, the Guttmacher Institute gave a history behind its findings and claimed that the “significant drop in teen pregnancy rates in the 1990s was overwhelmingly the result of more and better use of contraceptives among sexually active teens.”

Noting that the decline in teen pregnancy rates began to stall in the early 2000s, Guttmacher analysts argued that this occurred “at the same time that sex education programs aimed exclusively at promoting abstinence – and prohibited by law from discussing the benefits of contraception – became increasingly widespread and teens’ use of contraceptives declined.”

“After more than a decade of progress, this reversal is deeply troubling,” said Heather Boonstra, Guttmacher Institute senior public policy associate. “It coincides with an increase in rigid abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which received major funding boosts under the Bush administration.”

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, echoed Boonstra's comments, saying that “This new study makes it crystal clear that abstinence-only sex education for teenagers does not work, and it should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who still believes that teenagers aren’t sexually active or that abstinence-only programs curb the rate of teen pregnancy."

Valerie Huber, Executive Director of the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) denounced these claims and told CNA that the Guttmacher study is a “terribly simplistic response to a very complex problem.”

According to Huber, abstinence education only receives 25 percent of government funding, “so how can they possibly ascribe 100 percent of the blame to our approach?” she asked.

“If you want to play that simplistic answer game, using their same logic, then you would say that 75 percent of the problem should be because of failed contraceptive sex education.”

“Additionally,” Huber said, “abstinence education only has about 25 percent of the nation's students receiving that approach,” making the Guttmacher findings “totally disingenuous.”

Huber also charged that “they are looking at a very myopic view of the overall trends.”

“Since about the early 1990s, teen birthrates and teen pregnancy rates have dropped about 30 to 35 percent, a tremendous drop,” she said in response to the study.

Huber acknowledged that in the last few years there has been a “very slight uptick” in the number of teen pregnancies and abortions, but said that overall “we have a cultural trend that is very positive.”

Commenting on NAEA's progress in what she described as a “hostile environment in Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill,” Huber said that the group is gaining unexpected political traction. Although President Obama has recommended the complete de-funding of abstinence education, Huber reported that she is seeing “members on both sides of the aisle voting for abstinence education for the first time ever in their career.”

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