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Abstinence education still on the ropes

WASHINGTON (BP)–Congress is expected to take up the issue of abstinence education when it returns from the Memorial Week break, and abstinence supporters continue to urge citizens to contact their representatives and make their opinions known.

“We are fully expecting discussions for both Title V and CBAE lines of abstinence education funding to probably begin when the members of Congress return next week,” Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, told Baptist Press May 30.

“What we are trying to do is have members of Congress be contacted while they’re back in their districts this week,” Huber added. “This is probably the most critical week we have because they’re there among their constituents, and what better time for those constituents to contact them?”

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will decide whether to reauthorize Title V, which is one of three federal funding streams and sets the tone for the other two by providing specific guidelines on how abstinence education should be administered with taxpayer money. CBAE, or Community-Based Abstinence Education, will be addressed by a House Appropriations subcommittee.

“We’re actually hearing some positive responses when citizens talk to either the [House] member or their staff and communicate what abstinence really is,” Huber said. “It’s like this big ‘Ah-ha’ moment, and we’re seeing actually a lot more support. I’m just hoping that it’s sufficient and in time to make a difference when they return from their recess.”

Huber said she also was encouraged by the Energy and Commerce Committee’s lack of action related to Title V before the members left Washington.

“Congress was supposed to mark up the [Transitional Medicaid Assistance] and not include Title V before they left for recess, and I don’t think it’s coincidental that the Abstinence Day on the Hill [May 22] where teens from all over the country came here to Washington to talk to their members of Congress about keeping that funding coincided with about the same day that they were going to bring up TMA without Title V, and they decided not to do it,” she said. “So I see that as at least a small, promising indication that maybe members are rethinking that.”

TMA and Title V expire together and traditionally have been renewed together.

Though Rep. John Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said early on he was not inclined to continue Title V funding for abstinence education, Huber said she is not willing to give up on Title V before it expires June 30.

Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Barton from Texas, the committee’s ranking Republican, along with more than a dozen other Republican congressmen plan to offer an amendment to extend Title V funding for another three months, according to The Washington Times May 29.

“I know that Barton’s amendment is one thing that’s being tossed around as a possibility, but there is no confirmation that that’s how it’s going to go,” Huber said.

On the other front, Huber said there supposedly is a line item in the appropriations bill for CBAE, and that could be a positive sign.

“That would tell me that they’re not intending to do away with that funding,” she told BP. “There are a lot of scenarios there too, and your guess is as good as mine.”

Huber emphasized the need for Southern Baptists to contact their representatives and communicate a two-pronged message.

“First, let’s keep the funding there, but let’s also keep the funding parameters as they were,” she said. “I think that at least incrementally, members are understanding that. We just need to get enough members to understand that, regardless of what side of the aisle they sit on.”

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, warned in his Washington Update May 29 that critics of abstinence education are armed with another flawed study to add to the Mathematica study released in April in hopes of swaying public opinion against abstinence promotion.

“The article [in the American Journal of Sociology] suggests that having sex at age 15 or older doesn’t have harmful emotional consequences after all,” Perkins wrote. “Of course, this assertion runs counter to decades of research which demonstrates that teens who engage in premarital sex experience increased depression and decreased self-worth. However, the left is willing to use even flawed studies as ammunition in their war to slash Title V funding.”

Perkins noted that a coalition of 27 ministries, including the Family Research Council, is sounding the alarm about the real-life consequences of promiscuity for America’s youth. Starting June 1, the ministries are asking youth across the nation to join in prayer and fasting the first Friday of every month in an effort to promote sexual purity in a corrupt culture.

“Recognizing the challenges facing America’s youth, especially the devastation that sexual immorality and moral relativism have had and continue to have on this generation, and knowing that those who approach God must do so with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24), we urgently call American youth, and especially those who profess Biblical faith, to pursue lives of sexual purity and to urgently pray for their generation and for our nation (1 Corinthians 6:18),” the ministry leaders said in a statement released May 29.

“We, the undersigned, call upon students, parents, Christian teachers and ministry leaders to embrace this call and to unite with us in prayer on the first Friday of every month: to pray and fast for our nation and for spiritual awakening among the youth of our nation (2 Chronicles 7:14).”

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  • Erin Roach