Abstinence Education Gains Record Funding
March 25, 2003
A record $120 million in federal money will be invested in abstinence education this year, including $117 million to ongoing programs and $3.5 million in one-time earmarks to specific programs. Abstinence education proponents welcomed the funding. "This is as high as it's ever been," said Heritage Foundation analyst Robert Rector.
Rector said the ultimate goal would be to place abstinence funding on par with current funding for contraception education, or at least $135 million. President Bush tried to achieve this by budgeting $73 million for one abstinence grant program; Congress funded it at only $55 million.
Project Reality, in Golf, Ill., and the Best Friends Foundation in the District of Columbia, both veteran abstinence-based programs, received earmarks $100,000 and $250,000, respectively. The remaining $3.2 million of earmarked funds will go to 31 programs in Pennsylvania. Sen. Arlen Specter, who pushed for the earmarks with fellow Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, said, "Abstinence education is very valuable in promoting a viable alternative to sexual activity," thus reducing STDs, unplanned pregnancies and single parenthood.
Supporters of comprehensive sex education are dismayed by the new spending. "We are ignoring our young people's need for accurate and complete information by investing in unproven abstinence programs," said Kate Bowen Smith of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.
Even some supporters of abstinence programs have caveats for the funding, especially where faith-based programs are concerned. Leslee Unruh, founder of the Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls, S.D., wants to see money only going to programs that focus at least 75 percent on abstinence. Unruh also wants faith-based programs to understand the impact of accepting government money. "With the federal dollars comes a huge responsibility to walk that line," she said. "I'm all for passing out Bibles, but you can't do that with federal money."
03.24.03; Cheryl Wetzstein
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.