Thursday, May 17, 2007

This Is (Hopefully) the End of the Abstinence

Back to the museum for you!

Well, of abstinence-only education, anyway. And that bullshit couldn't have died a sooner death.
Democrats plan to let a federal abstinence-education program die quietly next month, demonstrating that pursuit of their legislative agenda can sometimes be passive.

The authorization for Title V abstinence-education grants expires at the end of June, and those on both sides of the sex-education debate agree that the $50 million-a-year mandatory-spending program — which draws an additional $37.5 million match from the states — stands little chance of winning an extension from a Democratic-controlled Congress.

Democrats generally favor a broader approach to sex education, but the issue is a tricky one politically. So Democrats are not calling attention to the impending demise of the abstinence-only approach, which was established under the 1996 welfare overhaul (PL 104-193) and is now operating under a six-month extension (PL 109-432) — or to the possibility that a $110 million discretionary-spending abstinence program funded through the Department of Health and Human Services may be zeroed out for fiscal 2008.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman John D. Dingell, D-Mich., does not plan to extend the grant program, according to his spokeswoman, Jodi Seth.

“The Speaker will look to Chairman Dingell for leadership on this issue,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Democrats point to a study sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services and released last month as evidence that an abstinence-only approach is ineffective. The study concluded that students given abstinence education were no more likely to abstain from sex, that those who had sex did so with a similar number of partners as those who did not receive abstinence education and that those students first had sex at the same mean age.

But proponents of abstinence education say it is more popular among parents than other types of sex education. They point to a recent Zogby poll commissioned by a pro-abstinence organization. Seventy-eight percent of parents responding said sex-education classes should place greater emphasis on abstinence than on contraception.

Conservative House Republicans favor extending the abstinence-only grants.

“Anything this Congress does that promotes promiscuity on the part of our young people is a step in the wrong direction,” said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.

But advocates of abstinence-only education acknowledge that the programs’ death by congressional inaction is likely.

“I expect an effort by Democrats to kill off both federal abstinence programs,” said Robert Rector, senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “It would effectively kill abstinence education.”

“It’s disappointing,” said Skip Brown, spokesman for Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., a leading proponent of abstinence education. “By killing this, Democrats are going against the wishes of most parents.”
Broader Approach

Under the Title V program, states receive formula-based grants to provide abstinence-only education. They must teach that abstinence is the expected standard for unmarried schoolchildren; that monogamous marriages are “the expected standard of human sexual activity”; that abstinence is the only sure way to avoid extramarital pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and related health problems; and that extramarital sex and child-bearing are harmful to parents, children and society.

Democrats including Pelosi contend that abstinence should be taught as part of a broader sex-education curriculum.

“The Speaker supports funding for both abstinence and comprehensive sexuality education,” Hammill said. “We must get at the root of the problem by reducing unintended pregnancies through sex education and access to contraception.”

California Democrat Henry A. Waxman, a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee who battled against abstinence-only education when Democrats were in the minority, said he would oppose any effort to extend the federal grant program. He called it a “huge waste of money” and said it “gives a lot of kids misinformation” on health issues.
Henry Waxman--you're not the easiest person on the eyes, but you kick much ass. Kudos to you, sir.

Let's hope that this shit just goes away for good.

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