- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2002

The welfare law's abstinence education program will be a target in the upcoming reauthorization debate, as some lawmakers attempt to terminate the program or broaden it to include birth-control education.
"There is no scientific evidence that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs work," Rep. James C. Greenwood, Pennsylvania Republican, and Californnia Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey said in a letter to President Bush a few days before the White House released its 2003 budget.
The Feb. 4 budget boosted abstinence education funds by 33 percent, to $135 million a year. This increase for abstinence-only education "is dangerous and unnecessary," Mr. Greenwood, Miss Woolsey and Miss Lee said in their letter.
They urged Mr. Bush to support programs that teach both abstinence and contraception because there is "ample evidence" that students in such programs delay sexual activity, use contraception when they become sexually active and have fewer sexual partners.
The three House members are co-sponsors of a Family Life Education Act that proposes spending $100 million a year on comprehensive abstinence-plus-contraception programs.
Many advocates of sex education plan to argue to Congress that although family planning and HIV/AIDS education have received federal funds, comprehensive sex education has received "zero" funding.
Mr. Bush uses science when it supports a program he wants, such as phonics funding in his education bill, but ignores science "when it comes to what works in sexuality education," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, which promotes comprehensive sex education.
Advocates for Youth and about 70 other medical, youth and advocacy groups recently sent a letter to Mr. Bush, asking him to reconsider funding "unproven" abstinence education programs and to switch to the more effective comprehensive approach.
Meanwhile, Rep. Patsy T. Mink, Hawaii Democrat, introduced a welfare-reform bill that proposes to repeal the Title V abstinence program in the welfare law. The bill has 66 cosponsors and support from the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Ken Connor, president of Family Research Council, said teaching about condoms and birth control has been the staple of sex education for years and has resulted in "disastrous" rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. The push to include birth control with abstinence "is the same old failed measures, with the same old folks with their hands out," he said.
The Family Research Council and other traditional-values groups assert that birth-control approaches are unproven. The National Institutes of Health recently found that condoms didn't stop about 15 percent of AIDS transmissions and were ineffective against many other sexually transmitted dieases, Focus on the Family said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Connor said, abstinence-only programs, such as Project Reality in Golf, Ill., and Operation Keepsake in Cleveland public schools, have successfully encouraged young people to delay or cease sexual activity.
As for claims that comprehensive sex education hasn't been funded, Mr. Connor said that "condom enthusiasts" received $132 million from the federal government in 1999 and $143 million in 2000. Abstinence-only education is the "historically underfunded" approach, he said.

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