U.S. Panel Votes on Sexual Abstinence
April 25, 2002
A House of Representatives committee has voted to renew a sexual abstinence program after turning back a Democratic attempt to let states decide whether to include discussion of birth control methods. The debate contrasted to five years ago, when Congress included the program in welfare legislation with virtually no public discussion. Majority Republicans defended the abstinence-only program, and the House Commerce Committee voted 35-17 to extend it for five years. Nothing requires states to take the restricted dollars, said committee chair Billy Tauzin, (R-La.).
Democrats spoke in favor of abstinence-plus programs, which already are used in many schools across the country. Such programs emphasize that abstaining from sex is a person's best choice and the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and disease, but they urge those who have sex anyway to use condoms or other protections. The federal law bars discussion of the benefits of birth control and instructs programs to teach that any sex outside marriage has harmful consequences. "A gag rule on information is no way to solve a serious health problem," said Rep. Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California, the only state that has opted out of the program.
In the last five years, abstinence-only programs have proliferated, drawing on $50 million in annual federal dollars and nearly that much in state money. Congress also has created an additional abstinence-only program that offers direct federal grants. This program was created after critics complained that states were failing to truly encourage abstinence by using the money for generic after-school programs and media campaigns.
An analysis of the larger, state-run program has yet to publish results indicating whether these programs are successful in preventing teen sex, pregnancy or disease. An interim report, released Tuesday by the Bush administration, confirmed there is still no evidence that abstinence-only programs work.
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.