Abstinence and Teen Pregnancy

William E. May
© 2010 Culture of Life Foundation
Reproduced with Permission
Culture of Life Foundation

Duke University Champions

Most Americans know that Duke University's Men's basketball team is the 2010 champion of college basketball. But few know that Dr. Monique Chireau, a Duke University expert in obstetrics and gynecology, is a champion of abstinence only programs as the way to help teenage girls forbear having sex, whether allegedly "safe" or "less unsafe," and as a result avoid getting pregnant and at the same time avoid contracting an STD or sexually transmitted disease.

I did not know of Dr. Chireau's great work until I learned of it in the March 30 2010 "Weekly Briefing" of the Population Research Institute (PRI).1 The PRI, founded in 1989 by Paul Marx, O.S.B. (who died March 20, 2010), is now presided over by Steven Mosher. Before summarizing the March 30 "Weekly Briefing," it will be useful to say something of Mosher's work and also provide background information about Dr. Chireau.

Steven Mosher

In 1979 Mosher, then a pro-choice atheist, was the first American social scientist invited by the Chinese Communists to observe how they were handling the "population explosion." After witnessing the forced abortions imposed on women who violated the "one child" policy he began to reconsider his convictions and later became a practicing, pro-life Roman Catholic who has labored to lead others, including the U.S. government and the UN, to recognize how barbaric the Chinese policy is. A leading expert on population problems, his most recent book, Population Control: Real Cost, Illusory Benefits (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2008), is a wonderfully documented study that, among other things, shows that the epidemic of malaria and AIDS in sub-Sahara Africa is not due to African sexual promiscuity but to policy decisions by the US and other governments to spend millions on programs promoting use of condoms and after morning pills etc. while reducing drastically funds for needed medical supplies such as clean syringes (see pp. 174-194 of his book).His study should be compared and contrasted with Matthew Connelly's Fatal Misconception: the Struggle to Control World Population (The Belknap Press of Harvard, 2008).2

Background information about Dr. Monique Chireau

I got this information, not provided in the PRI Weekly Briefing, by searching the internet. Dr. Chireau was born in 1958; her Paris-born father, Roland, married Dorothy Smith in NY in 1957 and worked for years as a chemical engineer. Part of that time he worked in India. Monique, his first child, born in 1959, received her M.D. from Brown University Medical School in 1991 and completed her residency in gynecology-obstetrics at Yale University in 1995 and is now assistant professor of gynecology-obstetrics at the medical center of Duke University in Durham, N.C., where her family moved in 2004. Her father was diagnosed in 1998 with prostate cancer and regarded his illness as a sign that he was called to serve God by serving the poor. He then studied theology at the Hartford Theological Seminary and then did missionary work with his wife among the poor of India. He died in Durham in 2009. Like her parents and siblings Monique is a devout Christian. Her married name is Wubbenhorst and she is the mother of two children.

The Teen Mom: Problem or Symptom?

This is the title of the PRI March 30 Weekly Briefing, written by Joan Claire Robinson. It begins with the following citations from Dr. Bergevin of the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund): "Every minute a woman dies from maternal causes," and "You can't die of pregnancy if you aren't pregnant, so universal access to family planning is our most immediate, effective impact to reducing maternal mortality." Bergevin's widely shared view was parroted by the Planned Parenthood's Guttmacher Institute's assertion that "Rigid, moralistic abstinence-only programs of the type promoted under previous federal policy . . . are a failed experiment," giving as proof the 3 percent increase in teen pregnancy in the US in 2006.

Robinson then turns to Dr. Chireau's empirically based work, presented in her talk on the issue of teen pregnancy at a meeting hosted by the Mexican UN delegation at the invitation of PRI. Among the major points emphasized in Chireau's address are the following:

1). Evidence falsifies the claim that the best way to prevent twin pregnancies is the widespread use of all kinds of contraceptives, including morning after pills, depo provera, and "sex education" informing youths of the different ways of preventing the birth of an "unwanted child." For instance Chireau gives the example of what has happened and is happening in England. It "has the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy in western Europe." Despite 10 years of intensive efforts by the Labor Party, "using typical prevention strategies including expanding sex education, increasing availability of contraception, and increasing access to abortion (without parental consent), the teen birthrate has continued to rise by 5 to 10% per year and 50 percent of teen pregnancies in England end in abortion." Dr. Chireau pointed out that "published medical papers call into question the current sex education and abortion strategies for reducing adolescent motherhood, but these studies are virtually ignored." For example, a paper published in the British Medical Journal in 2002 did a careful systematic review of 12 electronic databases, 10 key journals, and contact with the authors and found that primary prevention strategies - standard sex education and family planning - "do not delay the initiation of sexual intercourse, improve use of birth control among young men and women, or reduce the number of pregnancies in young women." The paper also showed "that some interventions increase pregnancy and STD rates."

2). The same kind of evidence has been presented by the work of other researchers who have demonstrated that abstinence only programs are far superior than those promoting contraception/abortion in preventing teen pregnancies. A very important one was carried out by Dr. John Jammott and a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania which showed that abstinence-only education programs are "markedly superior to sex education in delaying adolescent sexual activity. 662 African American grade-school students, mostly 12 years old, were divided into three programs, an abstinence-only program targeting reduced sexual intercourse, a safer sex-only program targeting condom use and a longer combined abstinence and safe sex curriculum. In the next two years, 52% of the kids in the safe sex program had became sexually active, followed by 42% of those in the combined program, and only 33% of those in the abstinence education had engaged in sexual activity."

Chireau concluded: "Sex education and reproductive health," Dr. Chireau concluded, "as a methodology shown to not solve the problem, should not be continued, and especially in countries where one peso spent for reproductive health care means that peso can't be spent on primary health care."

While writing this essay I learned of two other outstanding studies on teen pregnancy among African-American teens reported by Mary S. McClellan in the South Carolina State Magazine corroborating Chireau's report of the Jammott's team study.3

Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine

McClellan sums up an article from the February 2010 issue on the subject. It showed that when an abstinence-centered education program and contraceptive-based program both were evaluated, only the abstinence program succeeded. It discovered that abstinence education for a high-risk, African-American population of sixth- and seventh-graders reduced the incidence of sexual initiation and the number of sexual partners and that students who took the program were significantly less likely to initiate sex with the abstinence-centered approach than any other sex education strategy.

Heritage Keepers of South Carolina

McClellan also noted that a peer-reviewed article published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources reported that a year after receiving a program developed in South Carolina by Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education, S.C. students initiated sex at a rate half that of similar non-program students across age, race and gender. A Mathematica Policy Report reveals that five years after their core abstinence education program, 72 percent of 16-year-old participants reported never having had sex, compared with 48 percent of 16-year-olds statewide. Even more of the students, 84 percent, reported abstaining the year prior to the survey, implicating a recommitment to abstinence.


I personally know of the great work in helping black teenagers - male and female - remain chaste virgins until marriage that Dolores Greer, a black social worker, who was disgusted at those racists who judged black youths incapable of controlling sexual urges, carried out for the Archdiocese of New York from the early 70s through the 80s. Here we should recall that Jesse Jackson, in the years immediately following Roe v. Wade, was pro-life, regarding contraception-abortion as efforts by White racists to commit black genocide - all before it became politically expedient to champion a woman's "right" to control her own body.


1 PRI's website, which is well worth consulting regularly, is http://www.pop.org. [Back]

2 Kenneth Whitehead, in a Review Article of Connelly's book in the recent issue of Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, 32, 4 (Winter, 2009) 24-31, shows that Connelly, while recognizing that contraception/abortion so widely practiced in the Western world is leading to their suicide, nonetheless stubbornly supports the woman's "right to control her own body" and accepts the slogan "no unwanted child ought ever to be born," and the best way to prevent this tragedy is to practice contraception with abortion as a backup to failed contraception. Mosher's work is a marvelous antidote to Connelly's. [Back]

3 McClellan's article from the South Carolina Newspaper was reprinted by iMAPP in its final newsletter for March and is accessible at http://www.marriagedebate.com/labels/culture.htm. [Back]