- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The almost $900 million spent nationally on abstinence education during the last five years is a travesty, says a sex-education council that yesterday released a state-by-state report on abstinence funding.

“The proliferation of unproven abstinence-only-until-marriage programs is leaving too many of our kids at risk,” said Tamara Kreinin, president and chief executive of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).

Abstinence-only education is often “fear-based,” reliant on outdated or untrue facts about sexuality, and disallows discussion of contraception, Ms. Kreinin said.

States would benefit youths if they offered “medically accurate” sex education that would delay the onset of sexual activity and increase condom use, she said.

“We know what works,” she said.

The 450-page document, which took two years to research, tracks three federal abstinence-funding streams for fiscal year 2003. It details the amount of abstinence funds given to each state and the District, as well as local grantees, sex-education laws and statistics on pregnancy and teen sexual behavior.

James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, praised the SIECUS report for showing “the vast sums” government is spending on abstinence programs, despite their failure to teach the benefits of condom use in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

“The Institute of Medicine, the nation’s leading scientific authority, has cited abstinence-only-until-marriage programs as examples of ‘poor fiscal and public health policy,’” Mr. Wagoner said.

The National Abstinence Clearinghouse, which is gathering 800 educators in Nashville tomorrow for its annual conference, said yesterday that the SIECUS report unfairly attacks the effectiveness of abstinence education.

Research supports the fact that only abstinence “provides 100 percent protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases,” the group said.

“If SIECUS is honestly motivated by the health of our nation’s children, why would they be opposed to sharing the best way of protecting the next generation from hurt and disease?” said Leslee J. Unruh, Clearinghouse president.

Among the highlights in the “SIECUS State Profiles: A Portrait of Sexuality Education and Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in the States” report are:

• The District and 38 states, including Maryland and Virginia, require that either HIV/AIDS or sex education, or both, be taught in schools.

• The District, Maryland and Virginia require sex-education programs to “cover” contraception; Maryland and Virginia also require instruction about abstinence.

• California is the only state to consistently refuse the federally funded Title V abstinence money.

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