Abstinence Funds at Center of Fight

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 28, 2009 | Go to article overview

Abstinence Funds at Center of Fight


Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

First of two parts

The federal government's abstinence education programs aren't dead yet, but there's already a fight over the programs' funding.

The Title V abstinence education program, created in the 1996 welfare reform law, is set to expire June 30. Congress still has time to act, and abstinence proponents are trying to save it.

Any public policy that undermines individual responsibility and moral restraint undermines the very foundation of America, leaders of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse said last week after its big conference.

But in its 2010 budget, the Obama administration reallocated Title V's $50-million-a-year funding - along with $127 million from other abstinence programs - to a new Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative.

The new initiative isn't legislated yet, but budget language talked about funding programs that are proven to help teens delay sexual debut, increase contraception use or reduce teen pregnancy.

That's way too narrow, leaders of Advocates for Youth (AFY) and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) said in a June 17 blog titled, Failure to Launch: Obama's New Teen Initiative Can Be Fixed and Here's How.

The Obama administration deserves applause for ending abstinence education, and [p]reventing teen pregnancy is incredibly important. But unintended pregnancy among teens is not the only sexual and reproductive health issue facing our nation's youth, William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS, and James Wagoner, president of AFY, wrote at Web sites such as RHRealityCheck.org.

The best thing is to expand the scope of the initiative, they said. That way, HIV/AIDS and sexual disease prevention can be funded, as well as programs aimed at sexual life-skills training, mutual consent and identification of abusive relationships.

Moreover, a broader initiative can serve all young people in all communities, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, whose needs fall wholly outside of the narrow teen-pregnancy-prevention framework. …

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