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SIECUS Applauds Introduction of the Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act

Will Eliminate Failed Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Program, Transfer Funds to Comprehensive Sex Education

For Immediate Release                                                                               Contact: Patrick Malone
9/29/10                                                                                                          pmalone@siecus.org   
                                                                                                                      (202) 265-2405
 
 
Washington, DC – Today, Representative Barbara Lee (CA-D) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act (S 3878, HR 6283). The bill would transfer funds from the harmful Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program, which has funneled over half a billion of dollars to the states over the past fifteen years, to the new Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) program, a funding source for comprehensive sexuality education.
 
“The Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act is the right legislation at the right time,” said Jen Heitel Yakush, director of public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).  “New funding is finally available for evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education and it is counterproductive to continue funding the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program, which is, at best, a complete waste of time and money. We are grateful to those policymakers, under the leadership of Senator Lautenberg and Congresswoman Lee, who see the importance of removing ideology from federally funded sex education and shifting funds to the Personal Responsibility Education Program.”
 
The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage state-grant program originally expired at the end of June 2009, and, at the time, had been rejected by nearly half the states because of the ineffective and restrictive nature of the program. The ideologically driven program was resurrected in this year’s health care reform legislation despite clear evidence that federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are not effective in stopping or even delaying adolescent sex. A 10-year government study of the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program, released during the previous Administration, found that such programs did not delay sexual initiation—the entire supposed purpose of the programs.
 
Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have been sharply criticized by nearly every leading public health and medical professional organizations for being, by their very nature, antithetical to the principles of science and medical ethics. Moreover, parents, youth, adults, and voters in nearly every demographic category overwhelmingly support more comprehensive sex education that provides young people with the information and skills they need to make responsible decisions and lead safe and healthy lives. One nationally representative survey published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine found that more than eight in ten adults, regardless of political ideology, support comprehensive sex education that is medically accurate and age-appropriate and includes information about both abstinence and contraception for protection against unintended pregnancy and STDs, including HIV.
 
The strict eight-point definition that governs abstinence-only-until-marriage programs leaves young people ostracized and at risk. Though they are often presented to communities and school boards as programs designed to prevent pregnancy or STDs, including HIV/AIDS, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are about marriage promotion, and they consistently ignore many youth who are most in need of information, education, and skills training, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, youth who have been sexually abused, sexually active youth, and HIV-positive youth. While there is some new flexibility in recent guidance issued for the Title V abstinence-only program, the program continues to embrace the abstinence-only-until-marriage definition and funded programs cannot contradict any point of the definition. As such, states are still able to use these funds to implement ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that withhold information. In addition, there is no guarantee that this flexibility will remain in the coming years.
 
However, new funding for truly comprehensive sex education is available to states in the form of the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP). PREP funds programs that are required to provide information on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy and STIs, including HIV/AIDS, with a substantial emphasis on both abstinence and contraceptive use. Programs must also address adulthood preparation topics such as healthy relationships, adolescent development, financial literacy, educational and career success, and healthy life skills. Funded programs are required to be evidence-based or replicate elements of evidence-based programs that have been proven on the basis of rigorous scientific research to change behavior.
 
“The Title V abstinence-only program puts young people’s health and lives at risk by denying them complete information and never should have been resurrected in recent health care reform legislation. Congress now has the opportunity to make this right,” continued Ms. Heitel Yakush. “They can achieve this by passing the Repealing Unproven and Ineffective Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act, which would stop funding for the Title V abstinence-only program as soon as possible, strike the language from statute, and transfer all federal money to science-based, medically accurate, comprehensive sexuality education programs that address the prevention needs of all young people.”
 
Over the past year, following the evidence of what works and the urgings of the nation’s leading medical and public health organizations, the federal government has eliminated two-thirds of federal funding for ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and provided funding for evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention and comprehensive sex education initiatives totaling nearly $190 million.
 
 For more information contact Patrick Malone at (202)265-2405 or pmalone@siecus.org.
 
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