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Fox News Drops the Ball (Again) on Abstinence Education

"We report. You decide." Or so they say over at Fox News. But how can we decide anything when Fox News can't get the facts straight about abstinence education?

In her recent news story, “Just Say ‘No” – To Sex” Fox news analyst Lis Wiehl’s distorts the true aims and methods of authentic abstinence education programs, misrepresents the depth and breath of popular support for these programs, and conceals the fact that traditional condom social marketing programs consume ten times more federal dollars than their innovative counterparts in abstinence education.

Ms. Wiehl, as so many before her have done, makes the error of referring to authentic abstinence education programs as "abstinence only". The implication here is that these "just say no" programs are rife with inaccurate medical data and unrealistic expectations. Yet, even a cursory reading of the federal statutory guidelines for these programs reveals that they require even more than educating young persons about the significant medical and psychological risks associated with sexual activity outside of marriage. Programs must also include: 1. strategies for avoiding this risky behavior, which is closely associated with alcohol, tobacco, and drug use 2. education regarding the importance of achieving self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity and 3. education regarding the documented health and economic benefits associated with marriage.

Moreover, abstinence education programs do provide medically accurate information about contraceptives with unvarnished straight talk on their failure rates in the face of a proliferating number of sexually transmitted diseases, and frank discussion on the emotional consequences of premature sexual activity.

Ms. Wiehl erroneously reports that over 90 percent of American parents and every prominent American health organization believe that students should receive a comprehensive (condom-based) education when it comes to matters of sex. Yet a 2004 study shows that the reverse is actually true; over 90 percent of parents, at a minimum, want teens to be taught to abstain from sexual activity at least until they have finished high school. Eighty-four percent of parents favor teaching a standard of abstinence until a couple is married or close to marriage.1 Additionally over 90 percent of teens agree that they should be taught to abstain from sex until they have at least finished high school.2

Teaching abstinence to teens is reasonable, responsible and even popular among a majority of parents and teens.

We ask that the next time Ms. Wiehl weighs in on one of the most important issues of our day that she take the time and effort to get the facts straight.


John P. Margand, Esq.
Executive Director

Dr. Nanci Coppola
Director of Curriculum and Programs


 1 Robert Rector, Pardue, Melissa G., and Martin, Shannan, "What Do Parents Want Taught in Sex Education Programs?" The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, No. 1772, January 28, 2004.

2 National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Americans Sound Off About Teen Pregnancy, December 2003, p.8.