Abstinence Education Advocates Press for Federal Funding

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 13, 2011   |   12:49PM   |   Washington, DC

Abstinence education advocates are again pressing for federal funding for abstinence education in the federal budget after President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats slashed such funding in prior years.

Valerie Huber, the director of the National Abstinence Education Association is encouraging members of her group to lobby members of Congress, especially now that the July 18th House recess has been canceled. She said her group is its local partners are renewing their emphasis on abstinence education in federal policy, especially since the Appropriations Committee will be considering this portion of the federal budget in less than three weeks.

“Citizens who live in congressional districts of Appropriations Committee members should tell their representatives immediately that they want half of all sex education money in the 2012 budget to go toward abstinence education,” she said.

Recently, a bipartisan letter signed by 40 congressional House members, was delivered to Appropriations Committee Chair, Harold Rogers (R-KY) and ranking member Norm Dicks (D-WA) asking that at least one half of all funds for sex education be used to create a separate funding stream dedicated to the risk avoidance approach taught in abstinence education.

“I am pleased that Members of Congress are motivated to change current federal sex education policy,” Huber said at the time. “This bipartisan support puts politics aside and acknowledges the need to reestablish a priority on the evidence-based abstinence education approach.”

The letter details that all funding for abstinence education was eliminated by the Obama Administration and current funding for sex education gives no priority to the important risk avoidance message inherent in abstinence education.

“In the history of federal sex education funding, there has never been such a disparity in funding for abstinence education. Despite the fact that adolescents are contracting sexually transmitted diseases at an epidemic rate, there is no CDC or HHS community-based direct funding program that empowers teens to choose the sexual risk avoidance option found in abstinence education,” adds Huber.

The letter states that the requested emphasis on abstinence will not require any new funding but will simply provide for a more equitable distribution of existing funds for sex education.

Congressman Dan Boren (D-OK), cosponsor of the letter, noted “Abstinence education has been an important issue for me during my service in Congress. The risk-avoidance approach of abstinence education appropriately prepares youth to make informed decisions. For these reasons, I was pleased to join with Congressman Bill Flores and 38 other members of Congress in sending this bipartisan letter to the House Appropriations Committee. As the Committee prepares legislation for fiscal year 2012, I hope it will carefully take our views into consideration when appropriating funding for sex education programs.”

The letter came at the same time that Huber’s group noted a shocking new federal policy in one area of funding that precluded abstinence education.

One of the eight “specified Healthy Marriage Promotion activities” authorized for a new grant is “education in high schools on the value of marriage, relationship skills, and budgeting” but shockingly, one of the “unallowable activities” is teaching abstinence. Applicants are required to include a written statement that demonstrates their “commitment” to not teach an Abstinence Education program as a part of this grant.

“Preventing youth from receiving sexual abstinence skills is very troubling and completely ignores the body of research that now links teen sex to future divorce in marriage,” Huber stated.

She cited a new study finding that females who had sex in their teens had nearly double the risk of divorce later in life compared to their peers who waited for sex. (Anthony Paik, “Adolescent Sexuality and Risk of Marital Dissolution,” Journal of Marriage and Family  73 (2011): 472-485, p. 483, 484.)

“The unexplained hostility to risk avoidance abstinence programs defies the evidence-based framework that the Obama Administration purports to support,” Huber added.  “With the numerous sex scandals continually played out in the media, it is disturbing that programs encouraging self-restraint and self-respect are viewed as the enemy of the ‘healthy marriages’ these programs are designed to achieve.”

New funding to promote Healthy Marriages and Relationships was recently announced by the Department of Health and Human Services. In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 resulting in $75 million dollars being directed toward a competitive grant opportunity with the purpose of promoting the components of a healthy relationship and the benefits of marriage.