By Sean Cahill T he  welfare  reform  law  of  1996, premised on the unproven claim that poor women’s failure to marry is the cause of high rates of family poverty in the United States, promoted an abstinence-only-until- marriage policy that teaches that sex out- side the context of marriage is intrinsically dangerous,  both  physically  and  psycho- logically.1 Relying on scientifically inaccu- rate information and notions of shame, this policy poses a threat to all youth. But it poses a particular threat to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, who are already subject to widespread harassment and violence in the nation’s schools. As  of  1999  nearly  one  third  of  the nation’s high schools were promoting absti- nence only, while excluding information about contraception and safer sex educa- tion.2  A  study  of  43  states  plus  Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia found that more than 10 percent of the absti- nence-only  funds  had  been  granted  to “faith-based entities” in 22 states.3 A fur- ther 40 percent of the funds were spent through other private, but nonreligious, entities.4 Twenty-eight of the 42 state and territorial jurisdictions sampled prohibited organizations providing abstinence-based education from providing information on contraception  and  sexually  transmitted diseases (STDs) if asked by a student or other client. A further five jurisdictions pro- vided no guidance one-way or the other.5 Research has shown that sex education that promotes the delay of first intercourse but simultaneously teaches safer sex prac- tices  is  more  effective  than  abstinence- only   education.   A  World   Health Organization review of 35 sex education programs around the world documented the relative ineffectiveness of abstinence- only education in stemming the spread of STDs.6  Youth in the United States have higher rates of unwanted pregnancy and STDs than their counterparts in Europe, where comprehensive sex education is the norm. A  report  released  by  U.S.  Surgeon- General David Satcher in early 2001 also questioned the effectiveness of abstinence- only education. Satcher noted that there has been  little  research  to  demonstrate  the effectiveness  of  this  particular  type  of instruction. More comprehensive educa- tion programs that also provide informa- tion on condom use have proven effective in  stemming  disease  transmission  and pregnancy among already sexually active youth. Yet safer sex education has not been shown to increase or hasten sexual activity among youth. According to Satcher: To date, there are only a few pub- lished evaluations of abstinence-only programs. Due to this limited num- ber of studies it is too early to draw definite  conclusions  about  this approach.  Similarly,  the  value  of these programs for adolescents who have initiated sexual activity is not yet understood. More research is clearly needed. Programs that typically emphasize abstinence, but also cover condoms and  other  methods  of  contracep- tion, have a larger body of evaluation evidence  that  indicates  either  no effect on initiation of sexual activity or, in some cases, a delay in the ini- tiation of sexual activity. This evi- dence  gives  strong  support  to  the conclusion that providing informa- tion about contraception does not increase adolescent sexual activity, either  by  hastening  the  onset  of sexual  intercourse,  increasing  the frequency of sexual intercourse, or increasing the number of sexual part- ners. In addition, some of these eval- uated programs increased condom use or contraceptive use more gen- erally  for  adolescents  who  were sexually active.7 Abstinence-Only and Preven- tion Efforts to Stop Sexual Diseases and Teen Pregnancy S everal  states  and  municipalities  have rejected or stopped applying for federal disease prevention funds out of a mistaken belief that accepting abstinence-only funds precludes them from accessing federal funds for sex education. Nebraska decided not to reapply for HIV prevention grants from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) because HIV  prevention  has  traditionally  com- bined abstinence promotion with safer sex education.  Since  1997  Nebraska  has limited all state-sponsored sex education to an  abstinence-only-until-marriage  mes- sage. Following lobbying from the National Abstinence  Clearinghouse,  Nebraska’s Education Commissioner decided not to reapply for CDC funds.8 In 1998, Ohio state legislators passed a law preventing the state’s Department of Education  from  spending  CDC  funds awarded to it until it agreed they would only be used to teach abstinence. More than two The Public Eye THE PUBLIC EYE FALL  2002 12 Scared Chaste, Scared Straight: Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Education in U.S. Schools A report released by U.S. Surgeon-General David Satcher in early 2001 also questioned the effectiveness of abstinence-only education. Satcher noted that there has been little research to demonstrate the effectiveness of this particular type of instruction.