WASHINGTON (BP) — Funding for abstinence education has returned to the federal budget in the spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.
The $1 trillion budget, which staves off another potential government shutdown, allocates $5 million for abstinence-based Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) programs that were slashed by the Obama administration beginning in 2009.
Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, told the Focus on the Family-affiliate CitizenLink that the restoration of funding is a “step in the right direction.”
Abstinence-only education has been under fire by critics who argue that it is ineffective and leaves teens at greater risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases if they engage in sex. Advocates for abstinence education, meanwhile, point to new evidence suggesting their programs are having a positive impact.
A Feb. 1, 2010, study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine measured the effectiveness of abstinence-only education versus “safe sex” and “comprehensive” sex education by assigning high-risk students to one of the three programs. The study indicated that abstinence-only education was more effective in convincing students to refrain from sex. Additionally, students in the abstinence program were no less likely to use condoms if they did have sex, disputing a key argument of abstinence-only opponents.
A March 3 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that more men and women ages 15-24 have never had a sexual encounter. The percentage of men who remained sexually pure increased from 22 to 27 percent, while the percentage of women rose from 22 to 29 percent. The study also indicated that 53 percent of boys and 58 percent of girls ages 15-17 had never had sexual contact.
Even mainstream media outlets gave some credit to abstinence education. “The data renders null and void the ‘abstinence is unrealistic’ claims made by anti-abstinence advocacy groups,” Huber told Baptist Press regarding the CDC study.
Despite new evidence for the effectiveness of abstinence education, Huber told CitizenLink that “comprehensive” condom-based sex education still receives 20 times the funding of abstinence education in the federal budget.
“So we are a long way from parity,” Huber said. “But it’s definitely a step in the right direction. The important thing that we were really working to see accomplished this year was for abstinence education to be re-established as federal sex-education policy.”
Compiled by John Evans, a writer based in Houston.