In late February 2008, Governor Chet Culver of Iowa decided no longer to participate in the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program.1 With his decision, Iowa joins sixteen other states, which combine for a total of over $19.1 million of unspent federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funds.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human services (HHS) has allocated $50 million in federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding under Title V each year since 1998. The grant program requires states to provide three state-raised dollars, or the equivalent in services, for every four federal dollars received. Iowa received $318,198 in federal Title V funding in Fiscal Year 2007.2
Governor Culver’s press secretary, Courtney Greene, explained that the restrictions around the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program led to the decision.3 Title V includes an eight-point federal definition of “abstinence education,” to which all programs that receive abstinence-only-until-marriage funds must adhere. This definition specifies, in part, that “a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of all human sexual activity” and that “sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.”
Because the first element requires that Title V-funded programs have as their “exclusive purpose” promoting abstinence outside of marriage, programs may not in any way advocate contraceptive use or discuss contraceptive methods except to emphasize their failure rates.
The day before the Governor’s decision, FutureNet, The Iowa Network for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, Parenting, and Sexual Health hosted a briefing with Dr. Douglas Kirby, a leading sexual health researcher. Dr. Kirby presented the results of Emerging Answers 2007, which concluded that comprehensive education about sexuality is successful in delaying sexual initiation, reducing the number of sexual partners, and increasing condom or contraceptive use in teens.4 At the same time, the report says there is strong evidence that abstinence-only programs do not have any impact on teen sexual behavior.5
FutureNet applauded Governor Chet Culver’s decision to reject Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funds. “We are pleased that the Governor has decided to end this ineffectual use of taxpayer dollars to support programs that, by the best evidence available, do not have an impact on affecting teen pregnancy or rates of sexually transmitted infections,” said Rhonda Chittenden, the organization’s Executive Director.6
“Sex education programs that emphasize both abstinence and the use of condoms and contraception are realistic and most effective in achieving positive sexual health outcomes in adolescents,” Chittenden concluded.
- Darwin Danielson, “Governor Agrees to Reject Money for Abstinence Only Education Programs,” Radio Iowa, 29 February 2008, accessed 7 March 2008 <http://www.radioiowa.com/gestalt/go.cfm? objectid=65ADE711-02F1-73F5-823BA6F2DBF7ED7F>.
- FutureNet, “FutureNet Applauds Governor’s Rejection of Abstinence-Only Funds,” Press Release published 4 March 2008.
- Lynda Waddington, “Iowa Refuses Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Funding,” Iowa Independent, 29 February 2008, accessed 7 March 2008 http://www.iowaindependent.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=2022>.
- Douglas Kirby, Emerging Answers 2007: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Washington: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, November 2007).
- FutureNet, “FutureNet Applauds Governor’s Rejection of Abstinence-Only Funds.”