Critics say no reliable evidence exists that abstinence-only programs have a significant effect on young people.

"To fail to admit that there are people who won't be abstinent is to give a death sentence to some students who will not know how to protect themselves," Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, told CT.

But Barbara Elliott of the Center for Renewal in Houston points to the Best Friends program as a success story. A nonprofit private foundation, Best Friends works with 5,000 girls in 90 schools and 14 states. In 1999, Best Friends surveyed 2,631 girls who were in grades 4-12 and enrolled in its abstinence-only program.

Seventy-five percent said they wanted to save sexual intimacy for marriage. Three percent said they had been sexually active in 1999. Less than one percent reported being pregnant during 1999. By comparison, experts report that 50 percent of all American teenagers become sexually active during high school.

Related Elsewhere

Also appearing on our site today:

ACLU Claims Abstinence Program Is ReligiousLouisiana official vows to wage a legal fight 'to the hilt.'

The Best Friends Foundation website includes more of the group's national research findings and a column by Cal Thomas on the results of the 1999 survey.

Related articles on abstinence programs and their effectiveness include:

Teen abstinence programs catch onThe State (May 8, 2002)
Bush presses for $135 million to encourage abstinence only — Los Angeles Times (March 4, 2002)
Abstinence-Only Initiative AdvancingThe New York Times (Feb. 28, 2002)
Virginity Pledges by Teenagers Can Be Highly Effective, Federal Study FindsThe New York Times (Jan. 4, 2001)

Previous Christianity Today articles on abstinence include:

Bush Puts $135 Million Behind Abstinence from Sex"When our children face a choice between self-restraint and self-destruction, government should not be neutral." (March 13, 2002)
School Permits Abstinence Choice (April 5, 1999)
Where True Love Waits |How one woman dramatically changed the teen pregnancy rate in Rhea County, Tennessee. (March 1, 1999)

Christianity Today's sister publication Campus Life has an archive of stories for teens on sex and abstinence.

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