Abstinence Day on the Hill

Kisa Smith /

Spring has sprung in Washington, DC, and while many buses line the streets packed with students touring the National Monuments, another group of students came to Washington this week for a different purpose: To tell policymakers about the impact that abstinence education has had in their lives.

This year’s annual Abstinence Day on the Hill was of particular significance because of recent studies that suggest abstinence education could delay sexual activity in teenagers.

In a study evaluating the effectiveness of abstinence-based programs, researchers found that from a total of 22 studies reviewed, 17 studies reported statistically significant positive results in delaying sexual activity among adolescents.

Testimonials from students who came to Capitol Hill this week shed light on why abstinence-based programs have been effective. They expressed gratitude for the programs and directly attributed their successes in life thus far to their decision to delay sexual activity with the goal of waiting until marriage.

Research has shown that nearly two-thirds of poor children in America live in single-parent homes. Preventing teen pregnancy is not only beneficial to our economy, but also helps young adolescents avoid the emotional distress that often comes along with early sexual activity.

Abstinence education can help avert dependency on welfare. In a 2004 report analyzing federal spending on abstinence programs, Robert Rector, a Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, found that:

Women who begin sexual activity at an early age are far more likely to become pregnant and give birth out of wedlock and to be single mothers. Since single mothers are far more likely to be poor, early sexual activity is linked to higher levels of child and maternal poverty.

In an address to participants of Abstinence Day on the Hill, Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA) pointed out that abstinence education not only promotes the importance of being disciplined but also invokes the determination to make wise choices.

Abstinence education is not just about delaying sex. It’s about teaching young adolescents the importance of healthy relationships, building self-confidence, and showing how setting positive goals can significantly improve their future lives.

Teaching the importance of abstinence helps adolescents understand how the consequences of sexual relationships at a young age can greatly alter their future. Robert Rector pointed out that teens who abstain from sexual activity are two times more likely to graduate from college than their counterparts who are sexually active.

It is puzzling as to why some politicians and opponents of abstinence education continue to reject abstinence education, especially since surveys have shown that 80 percent of parents want schools to teach their students to “abstain from sexual activity until they are in a committed adult romantic relationship nearing marriage.”

Why should educators promote the use of contraceptives over abstinence, especially since most parents desire otherwise?

Standing up for abstinence education is not always an easy task, but is clearly of vital importance. We congratulate the students who participated in this year’s Abstinence Day on the Hill, and encourage them and others to continue their leadership in promoting healthy behaviors and showing how abstaining from sexual behavior during adolescent years can have a lasting and positive impact on their lives.