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Abstinence funding weakened in legislation


WASHINGTON (BP)–Part of the children’s health legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Aug. 1 extends Title V abstinence education funding for another two years but expands the funding to include “comprehensive sex-education” programs, which already are heavily funded and too often promote premarital sex.

The bill, passed by the House 225-204, greatly increases federal funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, although issues of concern to conservatives — such as promoting sexual abstinence among youth and defending unborn children — are not protected in the legislation.

The Title V language of the bill includes “medical accuracy” requirements that the pro-family National Abstinence Education Association says are hostile to present abstinence education programs. The new language also will grant funding only to those programs that have measurable success in reducing teen pregnancy and STD rates.

“They’re simply giving states more money to fund Planned Parenthood and the programs that teach our children to have sex,” Linda Klepacki, a sexual health analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said in a statement. “Comprehensive sex education will once again have a monopoly on your school systems.”

The Senate passed a more modest expansion of SCHIP by a 68-31 vote Aug. 2, securing for now a majority vote large enough to override a threatened veto by President Bush.

“Comprehensive sex education gets funded over abstinence by a 10-to-1 margin,” Ashley Horne, a federal policy analyst for Focus Action, told CitizenLink. “Allowing abstinence money to be used for comprehensive sex ed is like having a banquet in front of you but then stealing food from your poor neighbor.”


Valerie Huber, executive director of NAEA, has repeatedly warned that comprehensive sex education is harmful to the nation’s youth because such programs spend less than 5 percent of their course time promoting abstinence from sexual activity. Also, the programs offer a false sense of protection by telling students it’s possible to have “safe sex” with condoms.

Abstinence education, on the other hand, encourages students to remain sexually pure in order to attain life goals while not ignoring the facts that comprehensive supporters say children need to know, Huber said.

“Abstinence education shares the realities of sexually transmitted diseases and the best way to prevent them,” Huber wrote in an opinion piece called “Abstinence works” in the July 30 edition of USA Today. “Accurate information about contraception is provided, but always within the context of abstinence as the healthiest choice.

“The realistic limitations of condoms are shared but without the explicit demonstration and advocacy that characterizes ‘comprehensive’ programs,” she added.

Huber’s column was published as an opposing view to USA Today’s editorial decrying abstinence programs as failing to prevent early pregnancies and diseases. The newspaper pointed to the Mathematica Policy Research study from earlier this year which claimed there is no evidence that abstinence-only programs actually reduce teens’ sexual involvement.

“Last year, Congress’ General Accounting Office found that most abstinence-until-marriage programs are not reviewed in [a] scientifically acceptable manner,” USA Today’s editors wrote.

The newspaper also took issue with abstinence supporters who “attempt to take credit” for teen pregnancy rates trending downward during the same decade when abstinence funding has risen. The real reason for the decline, USA Today said, is teens’ fear of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

“Plainly, banking entirely on abstinence won’t work. What does appear to work is a mix of abstinence training and comprehensive sex education,” USA Today said.

Huber rebutted the Mathematica reference by noting that the study evaluated only four of 700 abstinence programs in the United States. She added that principal researcher of the study said results shouldn’t be used to draw sweeping conclusions.

“The relatively new programs targeted young adolescents and provided no follow-up,” she said, referring to the four programs studied by Mathematica. “The real ‘take away’ from this research is targeting youth at only young ages is not enough, and as is true of any health message, abstinence must be reinforced throughout the teen years.”

Along with the Community Based Abstinence Education program (CBAE) and Title XX, Title V is one of three federal funding streams for abstinence education.

A Zogby poll this year found that by a 3-to-1 margin parents want more funding given to abstinence education than to 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.

The bill is H.R. 3162.
Compiled by Erin Roach.