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Who knew what abstinence could save?

June 4, 2009

by Bob McAlister & Dave Wilson

Editor’s Note: The Obama Administration has cut abstinence education from the federal budget, and instead has poured more money into comprehensive sex education. We’ve been amazed as we’ve read up for this series the devastating effects of teen pregnancy and the rise of STDs. There is a solution, and the Obama Administration is just choosing to ignore it. This article is the first of a seven-part series on authentic abstinence education. The stories are true. We’ve seen the effects first hand. We both worked with Amanda and her family for years. We’ve changed their names to protect their privacy.


Amanda was 15 years old and pregnant. Her mom was 30; her grandmother, 45. The baby’s father was gone. Her dad was in prison. The man living with her mom was boyfriend number six.

For some, she was a statistic; for others, a tragic story of a cycle that many assume is unbreakable.

When we met her, she was a bright girl, doing better than “just scraping by” in school. She enjoyed hanging out with her friends and wanted to join her high school band.

But Amanda had become yet another in a long line of teen mothers in her family – a sad story for a girl who, just two years earlier, had dreams of becoming a doctor. A special scholarship for children of inmates would have paid her way through private school, but academic change was not enough. Amanda needed new skills to help her to avoid the pitfalls that eventually stole her opportunity.

The stories of Amandas across the nation are much the same: fatherless households with single moms struggling to make it, sex at an early age – often associated with family instability, children having children with little to no hope of breaking the cycle.

In the 80’s and 90’s, family planning programs promised breakthroughs for young women like Amanda. But, as funding for contraception-centered programs increased, STD/HIV and teen pregnancy rates skyrocketed. Subsequently, government costs for health and welfare programs ballooned out of control.

The impact of out-of-wedlock and broken families has been well documented by the social sciences and is beyond dispute.

The late Jack Kemp, former vice presidential candidate, drew the point home talking about the breakdown of the family. Kemp said, “kids’ lives are being damaged, men’s and women’s lives are being damaged and the fabric of our culture is being damaged. We’re losing the commitment to prepare for marriages, commit to marriages, honor it culturally and prevent the hardship of divorce and kids being born out of wedlock.”

Against this all-too-familiar background of fragmented families, support for abstinence-centered education regained some of the traction it lost in the latter half of the twentieth century, when fear of HIV was driving federally-funded sex education policy.

In 1996, the Clinton Administration made changes to the Social Security Act that provided federal funding “to promote abstinence from sexual activity, with a focus on those groups which are most likely to bear children out-of-wedlock” (Section 510 of the Social Security Act).

Self-control replaced self-indulgence and personal responsibility regained respect. In essence, the federal government gave an overwhelming stamp of approval on the simple truth that abstinence outside of marriage is foundational to rebuilding the crumbling American family.

Through welfare reform, fiscal and social policies joined forces, providing a clear definition for abstinence education. Eight federal guidelines focused attention on the benefits of sexual abstinence, the positive effects of marriage, and the skills young people need to make their best choices.

While Kemp and so many others could speak to the social impact, very few could articulate the economic impact until 2008 when a first-of-its-kind study was released documenting the enormous economic cost of the breakdown of the family in America.

The study, published by the Institute for American Values, took a state-by-state look at the very issues abstinence-centered education was established to address: out-of-wedlock pregnancy, divorce, and fragmenting American families.

In the last decade, the United States of America has spent more than $1 trillion for unwed childbearing and broken families. To bring it closer to home, the economic impact to South Carolina is $469 million every year in lost revenue, social programs and burdens on the justice system spurred on by broken families.

In light of tough economic times, when our state is making round after round of budget cuts and the federal government is bailing out failed institutions, research on abstinence education in South Carolina indicates strong success. The Heritage Keepers® Abstinence Education program, used across the state, reports that its students initiate sex at half the rate of similar non-program students, as measured a year later. Investing in abstinence-centered education programs like Heritage Keepers® Abstinence Education, and others that show similar promise (, is critical.

Abstinence education reversed the trends of the 90’s, when the majority of teens were having sex. After federal and state governments made a real investment in America’s future by financially supporting abstinence-centered education programs, the majority of today’s teens say that they are abstaining, a phenomenal change in trends. Abstinence-centered education is teaching the skills that break the cycle of poverty for untold thousands of the next generation, including Amanda’s child. That’s an investment that will mean a stronger America and a stronger South Carolina for years to come.

For more information: National Abstinence Education Association and Abstinence Works

Tags: abstinence education , federal budget , fragmented families , Jack Kemp , out-of-wedlock pregnancy , teen pregnancy

One Comment leave one →
  1. Carole Walters permalink
    June 4, 2009 5:38 PM

    We should not/will not give up on our kids. We don’t give them up to drugs, alcohol, or abuse. We must fight back for their hearts and lives. Thank you for up-to-date and background information on what our kids need to survive and be successful. I personally know a similar story where the odds were against success, but the story has a very happy ending after a recommitment to abstinence.

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