Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An open letter to Senator Orrin Hatch

Dear Senator Hatch,

I am the author of two of the approximately ten published papers about the sexual behavior of virginity pledgers. I found that virginity pledgers may lie about their sexual pasts and that they are less likely to use condoms when they do have sex.

Thank you for thinking of my research when you added an amendment for $50 million of Abstinence-Only Sex Education funds to the health reform bill. If the federal government does not fund abstinence education, my research into the sexual behavior of virginity pledgers and evangelical adolescents would lack policy relevance, so I'm truly grateful for this opportunity.

Nonetheless, I have to turn down this generous offer. I have a surfeit of other research topics, and I've moved on with my research. Even most abstinence proponents have moved on with their efforts. Every abstinence proponent I've spoken with, including leading Southern Baptists, seem to accept that their approach to sex education needs to be reworked. The evangelical media's reaction to my most recent paper finding virginity pledges do not work was mild (in the case of Focus on the Family Radio and the Baptist Press) and even favorable (in the case of Christianity Today).

More importantly, as you know, the case against Abstinence-Only Sex Education was definitively made by the Congressionally-mandated evaluation of the program published in 2007 by Mathematica Policy Research.

I consider that perhaps you made this amendment for ironic effect: if your amendment stays in the bill, the Democrats who favor health reform will have to vote for your abstinence funding. If so, your point was made, and I have laughed heartily at the irony. Now you can remove it.

Best of luck in your continued efforts.


Janet Rosenbaum, PhD

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