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July 4 recess delays abstinence funding

WASHINGTON (BP)–The National Abstinence Education Association is hopeful that funding for Title V abstinence education programs will be extended for three months, even though the House of Representatives’ July 4 recess will let the funding expire June 30.

Valerie Huber, NAEA’s executive director, told Baptist Press June 30 that House and Senate leaders in both parties have committed to a three-month extension but could not reach agreement on how to fund the extension before the House adjourned June 28.

On June 27, as Senate business drew to a close that evening, the full Senate voted by unanimous consent to extend the Title V abstinence education funding through Sept. 30.

Huber said House and Senate leaders have committed to work out funding for the extension when they return to Washington July 9 and retroactively cover the days which will be unfunded after June 30.

But, Huber said, “You can’t count on anything until you see it in black and white.”

She urged abstinence education supporters to contact their congressmen and senators during the recess to reiterate the need for funding abstinence education. Visits to congressional offices are important and even shouting a work of support to members of Congress who participate in July 4 parades, she said.

The three-month extension, however, “is very temporary,” Huber reminded.

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

Title V 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”; (B) “Teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school age children.”

The A-H list of teaching requirements will cease to exist if Title V is not reauthorized, and while Title V is just one of three federal funding streams for abstinence education in the United States, it sets the tone for the other two.

Section 510 of Title V, known as the State Abstinence Education Program, enables states to provide counseling and adult supervision to promote abstinence from sexual activity with a focus on groups most likely to bear children out-of-wedlock. This year, 43 states are receiving funds through Title V, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The stream with the most funding is CBAE, or Community-Based Abstinence Education, which supports public and private entities — including faith-based organizations — in developing and implementing abstinence education across the nation.

Title XX, or the Adolescent Family Life Demonstration and Research Program, supports the evaluation and development of programs that promote abstinence. In fiscal year 2006-07, 57 abstinence education programs were funded by Title XX across the nation, HHS said. Both CBAE and Title XX must promote abstinence education as defined by the A-H criteria in Section 510 of Title V.

Huber, on the National Abstinence Education Association’s website, noted: “… the effect of your efforts cannot be underestimated. If so many of you had not called and visited with your Congressional offices, I doubt we would have this good news to share! So, please know that your passion and action is being felt.

“Even more important, more and more members of Congress are becoming supportive of abstinence education as you educate them about the abstinence services you are providing in their home districts. The often-repeated phrase that ‘all politics are local’ continues to be validated. So, take heart, but we can’t permit our efforts to take a summer vacation!”

Apart from the hoped-for three-month extension, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council predicted June 28 there will be “a bitter debate for full reauthorization at the end of this fiscal year. No doubt proponents of comprehensive sex ed are salivating at the chance to eliminate [abstinence education] competition in September. This may be summer, but we cannot afford to take a vacation from contacting Congress … [for] the well-being of the next generation.”

Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink online newsletter reported June 27 that Daniel Schneider, acting assistant secretary for the Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children and Families, had sent letters advocating for Title V funding to four congressional leaders: Rep. John Dingell, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce; Rep. Joe Barton, ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce; Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Committee on Finance; and Sen. Charles Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance.

“Sexual activity among teens has health, emotional and social consequences,” Schneider wrote. “Nearly half of all new cases of sexually transmitted diseases occur among young people aged 15-24. Among teens, sexual activity is associated with depression, especially for girls. And youth who are sexually active are more likely to participate in other risky behaviors like drinking and using drugs.”

Polls show that parents and students agree that it is “important for teens to be given a strong message” of abstinence until marriage, Schneider also noted.

Linda Klepacki, analyst for sexual health at Focus on the Family Action, said senators and representatives need to understand that abstinence education funding is “vital to the health of their teens and young adults. If we don’t fund abstinence education in our schools, we will most likely see skyrocketing sexually transmitted infection rates, skyrocketing teen pregnancy and abortion rates, and a return to heavy dependency on welfare tax dollars.”
With reporting by Erin Roach. The National Abstinence Education Association can be found on the Web at abstinenceassociation.org. To contact the offices of U.S. senators and representatives, call the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202-224-3121.