Despite a tight budget year, the South Carolina legislature allocated $1.2 million for teen pregnancy prevention through the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS). A provision in the state budget requires the monies be directed towards at least one abstinence-only program. The provision also stated that organizations with a history of implementation success in the state should be given preference in awarding grants.[i]
Though the funding goes to DDS it has historically been split between two agencies, the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and Heritage Community Services.[ii] The Campaign provides comprehensive sexuality education training and other resources. Heritage is an abstinence-only-until-marriage provider that operates in half a dozen states.
Governor Mark Stanford vetoed the spending, calling it “an attempt to mask the directive of appropriations to the two agencies that have historically received these funds.”[iii]
Heritage Community Services uses the Heritage Keepers abstinence-only-until-marriage program. SIECUS reviewed Heritage Keepers, Abstinence Education I and found that it contains very little information about important topics in human sexuality such as puberty, anatomy, and sexual behavior. Even topics that are frequently discussed in detail in other abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, such as condoms and STDs, receive very little mention. Instead, the curriculum devotes most of its lessons to the importance of marriage and abstinence before marriage. It relies on messages of fear and shame and promotes biased views of gender, marriage, and pregnancy options. For example, the curriculum tells students “Males are more sight orientated whereas females are more touch orientated. This is why girls need to be careful with what they wear, because males are looking! The girl might be thinking fashion, while the boy is thinking sex. For this reason, girls have a responsibility to wear modest clothing that doesn't invite lustful thoughts.”[iv]
The legislature has combined funding for the Campaign and Heritage Community Services for several years, in order to provide funds for two varying mechanisms of pregnancy prevention.[v] However, in doing so, the legislature combines two approaches that are in many ways, diametrically opposed to one another.
Advocates from both the Campaign and Heritage Community Services worked to restore the funding before the legislature ended the 2008 session on June 5. They were successful in their efforts, convincing the legislature to overturn the Governor’s to veto.[vi]
[i] Tony Bartelme and Yvonne Wenger, “SC legislators find money for abstinence education, shortchange school buses,” The Post and Courier, 27 May 2008, accessed 4 June 2008 <http://www.charleston.net>.