Studies Put Abstinence Funds at Risk

Article excerpt

Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

After a 10-year run, federally funded "abstinence-only" education faces a reversal of fortunes this year.

Two recent studies - one that found federally funded abstinence programs do not affect teenage sexual behavior and another that found that "almost all" American adults have sex before marrying - are adding momentum to the argument that abstinence-only education is folly.

Advocates for Youth and its allies in comprehensive sex education plan to urge Congress to discredit abstinence-only education - and its eight-point definition - and replace it with programs that teach "abstinence plus contraception."

The federal study of four abstinence programs released last week "is where the state evaluations and other research lead us, which is that the abstinence-only approach doesn't work," said James Wagoner, the group's president. "I think it's time for Congress to defund these [abstinence-only] programs, turn away from this policy and support a policy that includes both abstinence and contraception. I think that's where common sense and public health leads us."

Mr. Wagoner and his allies will be watching House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, whose panel can decide not to renew the $50-million-a-year Title V abstinence education program that expires in June.

In addition, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who authored a scathing critique of abstinence programs in 2004, is expected to hold hearings on abstinence education this spring.

Supporters of abstinence education do not plan to lose any of the ground they have gained since 1996, when the Title V program was created in the welfare reform law.

They say America has tried contraceptive sex education, and teen pregnancy rates rose as a result. They say that talking about sexual abstinence and birth control in the same program sends mixed messages to teens, and the eight-point definition of abstinence - which was created in the Title V program and is a core element of a larger abstinence funding stream - is geared to make sure abstinence funding is used for intended programs. …