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Abstinence funding survives 3 more months

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush is set to sign a three-month extension for Title V abstinence funding, and abstinence education leaders are urging supporters to use the August recess to contact their congressmen in order to secure a more extensive renewal of the funding.

Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, said the three-month extension “is very temporary.” The extension will end the last day of September.

“The battle is far from over. We have no promises beyond three months,” Huber said, adding that abstinence supporters have “a lot of work to do” to provide for abstinence education funding beyond the current fiscal year.

The House voted 291-126 July 11 to extend Title V for three months, following a vote by the Senate last month. Bush is expected to sign it any day. Along with the Community Based Abstinence Education program (CBAE) and Title XX, Title V is one of three federal funding streams for abstinence education.

In June, a House Appropriations subcommittee voted to increase funding for the CBAE to $141 million, exceeding Bush’s request of $137 million. The appropriations bill is up for debate before the full House, and Huber said opponents may offer amendments to the funding bill that would harm abstinence education.

The National Abstinence Education Association is urging abstinence supporters to take advantage of the congressional recess in August when members will spend time in their districts.

“When they return from the August recess, further action will be taken on both Title V and CBAE funding, so this will afford a perfect opportunity to encourage support for abstinence education,” the organization’s website says. “Contact the district office for your member of Congress today to schedule a meeting with the member during the August recess. Their schedules quickly fill up, so it is important to call early.”

If Title V expires, one of the major consequences will be a change in the language required by the government in discussing sexual abstinence with U.S. students.

Title V, with $50-million-per-year grants, defines abstinence education with a list of criteria labeled A-H, including (A) “Has as its exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity”; and (B) “Teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school age children.”

A recent report by the National Center for Health Statistics found that the number of teenagers in the United States who have had sexual intercourse dropped from 54 percent in 1991 to 47 percent in 2005, and at least one analyst noted the significance of 1991.

“That’s when we separated out abstinence education from contraceptive-based education,” Linda Klepacki, an analyst for sexual health at Focus on the Family Action, told the online newsletter CitizenLink July 13. “We have seen a continual decline since 1991, so we can infer that we’ve had an effect with abstinence education in our public schools.”

The report was based on questionnaires called the Youth Risk Behavior Survey completed by a cross-section of students at public and private high schools.

The study did not address a cause for the decline in teens’ sexual involvement, but Joyce Abma, a social scientist for National Center for Health Statistics, acknowledged that the efforts to educate teens about the risks associated with sexual intercourse have “increased and intensified” during the past 10 years.

“Given how many of those efforts are going on, it is probably making an impact on both abstinence and responsible sexual behavior,” she told CitizenLink.

Harry Wilson of the Department of Health and Human Services agreed that youth are making better choices these days, whatever the reason.

“They’re making those good decisions, and, hopefully, it’s because the programs are working. The messages that they get are that it’s better to wait,” Wilson, associate commissioner at HHS’ Family and Youth Services Bureau, said.

The report also indicated a record low in teen birth rates, continuing a 14-year downward trend. The 2005 birth rate for teens ages 15 to 19 was 40.4 births for every 1,000 female teens, which is 35 percent lower than the peak of 61.8 percent in 1991.

A Zogby poll this year found that by a 3-to-1 margin parents want more funding given to abstinence education than to so-called comprehensive sex education, and 83 percent of parents think it is important for their child to wait until they are married to have sex.

Also, a study released by the Department of Health and Human Services in June found that comprehensive sex-education classes taught in public schools across the nation contain medical inaccuracies, present information in an amoral way and do not delay the onset of sexual activity among youth.

Huber emphasized the importance of parents and other concerned citizens making their opinions known.

“We know that all politics are local, and although we’re doing the work in Washington, D.C., with these members, the most convincing voice is that of their own constituents,” Huber said.
Compiled by Erin Roach. For more information visit www.abstinenceassociation.org.

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