President Bush Criticized for Abstinence Funding Commitment

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 5, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

President Bush Criticized for Abstinence Funding Commitment

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 5, 2004

Washington, DC ( — President Bush is drawing criticism for his commitment to funding abstinence education programs. While the president is asking Congress to double the funding such programs receive, critics say too much money makes its way to groups that are religious or pro-life.

Supporters of abstinence programs are elated about the opportunities the funding has afforded — such as allowing educators to bring their message about sexual purity to junior high and high school classrooms.

But critics like James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, contend the programs don’t work.

Wagoner, whose group promotes the use of birth control, claims Bush’s desire to increase abstinence funding is a political issue, rather than a desire to reduce teen pregnancies. "You have to wonder if doubling the budget, during an election year, is a form of patronage for supporters of the administration," he told the Associated Press.

Critics also don’t like who is receiving funds. Among the 28 most recent recipients of federal abstinence education grants are six crisis pregnancy centers that offer alternatives to abortion and some groups affiliated with the Catholic church.

"Basically, they have created an industry, and they certainly are rewarding their friends," said SEICUS spokeswoman Adrienne Verrilli.

But abstinence education proponents say the message is what is most important and that parents support the abstinence message.

A January Zogby International poll shows parents overwhelmingly support abstinence education for teenagers.

Out of the 1,004 parents surveyed across the nation, 96 percent said abstinence is best for teens. The vast majority of American parents want their children’s sex education classes to emphasize abstinence until marriage, according to poll, which was commissioned by Focus on the Family.

Only 39.9 percent thought that abstinence and contraception should be combined in a single class. But even on that matter, only 2 percent thought that sex education should focus on teaching teens how to use condoms.

In his State of the Union speech, President Bush asked that funding for federal abstinence programs be doubled now and tripled by 2005.

"We will double federal funding for abstinence programs, so schools can teach this fact of life: Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases," Bush said.

Bush’s proposal would increase abstinence program funding from $80 million a year to more than $270 million in 2005.

However, some members of Congress, led by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), have been attempting to gut Congressional funding.