More states are finding abstinence-only “sexuality” education ineffective:
[Ohio Governor Ted] Strickland, like most of the other governors who are pulling the plug on the funding, said the program had too many rules to be practical. Among other things, the money cannot be used to promote condom or contraceptive use. Students are to be taught that bearing children outside wedlock is likely to harm society and that sexual activity outside marriage is “likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.”
And, according to the governor’s spokesman, Keith Dailey, Strickland sees little evidence that the program has been effective. “We’ve spent millions of dollars on such education since Ohio first started getting grant money in 1998,” Dailey said. “If the state is going to spend money on teaching and protecting kids, the governor believes it’s better to spend it in a smarter, more comprehensive approach.”
In response, abstinence-only advocates invent children:
“There are kids who don’t want to know how to put on a condom, because they don’t want to have sex,” said Leslee J. Unruh, founder and president of the South Dakota-based Abstinence Clearinghouse, the nation’s largest network of abstinence educators. “So why can’t kids who want to abstain have equal time, funding and education in the classroom as kids who are having sex?”
Even if such children (who have reached puberty) exist, abstinence-only programs cannot be distinguished from an evangelical Christian moral foundation; they deprive children of “access to medically accurate information about contraceptives and disease prevention.”
Even though a Government Accounting Office report concluded that abstinence-only programs were (still) unproven, “[i]n a federal budget that is tight for nearly everything but entitlements, domestic security, and the military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, President Bush has asked Congress to carve out $191 million for the abstinence program in fiscal 2008 — an increase of $28 million over current funding.”
Federal officials hope to prevent other states from dropping out of the Title V program. Late last month, a memo by the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the Administration for Children and Families clarified that although state agencies could only use Title V grants for abstinence-based programs, those programs could be part of a broader curriculum that includes contraception education.
“This is not an either-or-situation,” said Harry Wilson, the associate commissioner of the bureau, which manages the program.
Abstinence-based programs, distinguishable from abstinence-only programs by a sort of middle-ground approach, still advocate abstinence but include information on contraception.
William Smith, vice president of public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, called the memo “an utterly desperate and disingenuous response to a crumbling program. The language is clear: If you get this money from the government, you teach only one thing: abstinence.”
California, having already seen its own abstinence-only programs fail, never accepted federal money for them; Colorado, New Jersey, and Wisconsin are now also dropping out of the program.