Youth Groups Oppose Abstinence

By Bob Kellogg, correspondent

Rock the Vote — an organization sponsored by MTV — wants teens to sign a
petition to end federal funding for abstinence-only sex education.

President Bush is asking Congress for $50 million a year for the next five years
for abstinence-only education. Now, Advocates for Youth, a "safe-sex-for-teens"
organization, has teamed up with Rock the Vote to oppose the administration's
abstinence-only funding. The groups are urging youth nationwide to sign petitions
telling Congress to reject the funding, according to Deb Howser, vice president
with Advocates for Youth.

"I think this campaign is just to mobilize young people who have been telling us
that they want comprehensive sex education," Howser said.

The campaign also wants the 80 percent of young adults that don't vote, to vote
against conservatives who favor abstinence-only education funding.

"We know that there's no scientific evidence that abstinence-only-until-marriage
education works," Howser said. "There's not been any research published that
says that it does."

Bruce Cook, with "Choosing the Best" — an abstinence-until-marriage program
in Georgia — agrees more studies are needed.

"(However), we will get about 75 percent of the kids going through our program
with an intention to be abstinent until marriage," Cook said.

Robert Knight, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Culture and Family
Institute, said Rock the Vote is an outgrowth of the rock music industry.

"These are the people who are going to save our kids from the ravages of sexual
diseases and unwanted pregnancies?" Knight asked. "I don't think so."

Howser said a campaign objective is to help parents talk openly with their
children. Cook agreed parent involvement is key, but "the only way you can pull
parents into this thing is by stressing abstinence-only. There's no way parents are
going to respond to a program that emphasizes contraception."

While Advocates for Youth claims abstinence-only education doesn't work, they
say abstinence should be included in "safe-sex" education programs. Knight,
meantime, said safe-sex groups wouldn't be stressing abstinence if they truly
believed it was ineffective.