Putting Abstinence-only Funding On The Chopping Block

James Dobson’s Focus on the Family issued an alert to its membership yesterday with a banner headline: “Liberals Want Federal Abstinence Education Cut.” To which I thought, “It’s about time.” From the religious right group’s report:

President Bush’s 2009 budget proposal includes $204 million to support Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE), but dozens of liberals in Congress want all abstinence money axed from the budget.

Seventy-six representatives — all abortion supporters — have signed a letter sponsored by Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., asking the House Appropriations Committee to cut all abstinence-education funding. The letter follows another letter, sent by Reps. Lee Terry, R-Neb., and Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., urging support for CBAE funding and current guidelines.

The debate surfaces on the heels of a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows one in four teen girls in the U.S. has a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

I was especially struck by the notion that the timing of the CDC report was somehow helpful to the right’s efforts to promote abstinence-only funding. If anything, the opposite is true — as the rates of sexually-transmitted diseases go up, it’s all the more important to offer quality education on sexual health.

It’s quite simple: the evidence that abstinence-only is more effective doesn’t exist.

ABC News had this report last night:

The political and ethical debate over what to teach teenagers about sex is being reinvigorated after a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that one in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease. Now some say the study, the first of its kind, reveals why it’s so important to teach teens not to have sex at all; others argue that the study proves that federally funded abstinence-only education isn’t working.

Stoking the fire, a study published in the April edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health found that those who received comprehensive sex education were 50 percent less likely to become pregnant than those who received abstinence-only education. The study also found that those who received comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to become pregnant than those who received no sex education at all.


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“I do think that there’s strong evidence that comprehensive sex education is more effective at preventing teen pregnancies,” said Pamela Kohler, lead author of the study and program manager at the University of Washington’s Center for AIDS and STD. “I think we pretty much debunked the myth that comprehensive sex education causes teenagers to have sex.”

Thus far, it appears conservative groups have missed the memo. For that matter, as I understand it, House Republicans and Bush administration officials are prepared to fight to keep the funding for ineffective programs in place.

One wonders just how many more studies it will take.

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