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Congress Once Again Extends Abstinence-Only Funding

Rachel Hart,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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October 1, 2007

Last week, Congress once again extended funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Curious at how state and federal dollars are spent across the country supporting abstinence-only programs? Below is a summary from recent news clips.– Earl School District in Arkansas and Reality Check, a local abstinence-only-until-marriage organization, are set to receive a total of $830,000 for their programs;– The Pregnancy Resource Center of South Oklahoma will receive $446,383 so that they may bring their abstinence-only-until-marriage program to local teens in sixth through twelfth grades;– More than one million dollars has been earmarked for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Pennsylvania;– At least 1.6 million dollars is spent on the Governor’s Program on Abstinence in Louisiana;– In Indiana, a statewide abstinence-only-until-marriage program called The PEERS Project, will receive $597,000;– and Virginia’s abstinence-only-until-marriage program Horizons Unlimited is set to receive $125,000.Millions of dollars pouring into programs that push abstinence — and only abstinence — until marriage yet a new study reports that there is wide spread disagreement among teens about what constitutes abstinence and virginity.Responses from more than 1,100 teens in the study were startling. Teens believed virginity is maintained after participating in: genital touching (83.5%); oral sex (70.6%); anal sex (16.1%); or vaginal intercourse (5.8%). And that abstinence is maintained after participating in: genital touching (44.2%); oral sex (33.4%); anal sex (14.3%); or vaginal intercourse (11.9%).With these sorts of discrepancies among teens about what constitutes a virgin and what you can or cannot do to remain abstinent it is downright irresponsible not to teach teens how to protect against unintended pregnancy and STDs.Thankfully more and more people are voicing their opposition to these programs.A grandfather in Massachusetts says comprehensive sex ed should “just be another course in school.” In Michigan, a student calls for teachers to “listen to their students and hear what they want to learn about,” and an op-ed in Illinois points out the prevalence of harmful stereotypes: “Nowhere are the stereotypes about women more candid than in abstinence-only sexual education.”Even The Economist has joined the call for comprehensive sex ed both at home and abroad after a recent review of medical trials that found abstinence plus information on how to protect against unintended pregnancy and STDs was more effective than abstinence-only.And most unlikely of all? Jenna Bush’s new book on HIV in Latin America, Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope, advises teens:

If you decide abstinence is right for you, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise…. If you decide that you’re ready for a sexual relationship, the best way to protect yourself…. is to be faithful to your partner and use a condom every time. No exceptions — ever.

If only her father listened.

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