Tell HHS to Stop Funding Abstinence-Only Education Programs

In April, the Department of Health and Human Services added Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education, an abstinence-only education program, to its list of evidence-based pregnancy prevention programs that receive government funding. This decision was based upon unpublished, unreliable, and biased research conducted at Brigham Young University.

Studies typically go unpublished because critical review would shine light on bias or skewed data. This study did not include the conflicts of interest disclosure required by most journals to publish research. This is likely because there is a clear conflict of interest for researchers at BYU, where the university honor code requires students and faculty “live a chaste and virtuous life.” This bias leads researches to draw conclusions based on their existing belief. 

The testing procedure calls the reliability of this study into question. Instead of randomly deciding which students would receive the abstinence-only education, researchers purposefully selected which students would participate in the abstinence-only program. Intentional selection allows researchers to fill the abstinence-only education group with students already more likely to abstain from sexual activity and then attribute their abstinence to the program. Additionally, only past studies by the lead researcher are cited when describing the reliability and validity of the testing measures. 

Government officials should rely on high quality research, not studies tainted by religious belief, when making health care and education policy decisions.

Please tell the Department of Health and Human Services to remove the Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education program from its list of evidence-based pregnancy prevention programs that receive government funding until they are supported by published, unbiased, reliable research.

Below is the text that the Secular Coalition sent:

I am writing to request the Department of Health and Human Services remove the Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education program from the list of evidence-based pregnancy prevention programs that receive government funding. 

The Department of Health and Human Services should rely on high quality research, not study tainted by religious belief, when making health care and educational policy decisions. The independent evidence review did not adequately consider the bias and lack of reliability of the unpublished study upon which this decision was made.

Studies typically go unpublished because critical review would shine light on bias or skewed data.  This study did not include the conflicts of interest disclosure required by most journals to publish research. This is likely because there is a clear conflict of interest for these researchers at Brigham Young University, where the university honor code requires students and faculty “live a chaste and virtuous life.” This bias leads researches to draw conclusions based on their existing belief. 

The testing procedure calls the reliability of this study into question. Instead of randomly deciding which students would receive the abstinence-only education, researchers purposefully selected which students would participate in the abstinence-only program. Intentional selection allows researchers to fill the abstinence-only education group with students already more likely to abstain from sexual activity and then attribute their abstinence to the program. Additionally, only past studies by the lead researcher are cited when describing the reliability and validity of the testing measures. 

Please remove the Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education program from its list of evidence-based pregnancy prevention programs that receive government funding until they are supported by published, unbiased, reliable research. 

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