ENABL (Education Now and Babies Later) teaches the view embraced by social conservatives -- that abstinence is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and that teaching kids about birth control or safer sex practices simply encourages them to have sex. In fact, federal rules tied to the funding forbid any mention of the effectiveness of contraception or safer sexual practices that reduce the risk of disease.
The 91-page report, posted last week with little fanfare on the Health Department's Web site, recommends broadening the program to include more information about contraception. Critics of the ENABL program questioned why the agency waited until six months after the report was completed to release what they said might be a politically controversial finding. State health officials said the release was not delayed.
The Minnesota researchers surveyed 413 kids who were taught the abstinence-only curriculum at one school in each of three counties. They found over the course of the year that the rate of those who said they were sexually active increased from 5.8 to 12.4 percent, and that the rate of those who said they would probably have sex before finishing high school increased from 9.5 to 17 percent.
In Minnesota, most parents want both kinds of information provided to their kids, according to the ENABL study. It surveyed 2,500 Minnesota parents and found that only one-fifth wanted abstinence-only education and that 77 percent wanted their kids to know about contraception, too, the researchers said.
The real question, of course, is how many additional unwanted pregnancies and abortions there were.