- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2002

Twenty groups who support sex education are urging members of Congress to spend no new money on abstinence-only programs when legislative business resumes this week.
The Bush administration has asked that funding for a new abstinence-only grant program increase from $40 million to $73 million.
That would bring the total amount of federal funds for abstinence-only education to $135 million. Supporters say this would fulfill a campaign pledge by President Bush to fund such education at the same level as teen contraceptive services.
Leaders of 20 groups, including the Sexuality and Information Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), Advocates for Youth, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, say that there should be no new money for abstinence-only programs because they are "unproven and harmful."
Since 1998, Congress has spent more than $500 million on abstinence-only efforts "even though there's no solid research that shows it works," said SIECUS President Tamara Kreinin. Moreover, two studies show that when teens are taught only abstinence, they are less likely to protect themselves from disease or pregnancy when they start having sex, she said.
"As weird as it sounds," some state and local groups are saying that they don't want any more money for abstinence-only education, said William Smith, director of public policy at SIECUS. Instead, he said, they support a bill by Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat, to spend $100 million a year for comprehensive sexuality education, or programs that teach about abstinence, condoms and other contraception.
The issue is likely to come up this week when the House Appropriations Committee works on 2003 funding for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Education departments.
The sex education "parity" argument has been simmering since President Bush's election campaign.
Abstinence supporters say there has been abundant funding for "safer sex" and condom programs but little money for abstinence-only programs, and that this inequity should be fixed. They point to a 1998 General Accounting Office report that found the federal government had 25 contraceptive/sex-education programs but just two abstinence-only programs.
A third abstinence-only program has been added, but abstinence has been the "historically underfunded" approach, said Family Research Council President Ken Connor.
Supporters of sex education reject this argument.
"You can't rightfully say that teen-pregnancy prevention is comprehensive sex education," because Title X family planning funds and Medicaid are services, not classroom education, said Miss Kreinin.
Mr. Smith applauded Rep. James C. Greenwood, Pennsylvania Republican, for saying that comparing abstinence-only education with federal health or contraceptive services "was not even a case of apples and oranges; it's apples and marmalade."
Mr. Greenwood is a co-sponsor of the bill to spend $100 million a year on comprehensive sex education.
Meanwhile, another sex-education battle is brewing in the Senate Finance Committee's welfare-reform bill.
Before the committee passed the bill, it adopted an amendment from chairman Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, to create a $50-million-a-year "abstinence-first" program for abstinence-plus-contraceptive activities.
The welfare law's Title V $50-million-a-year "abstinence-only" grant program also would be maintained.
SIECUS and its allies oppose the Baucus "abstinence-first" program because "there's no guarantee" that its funding won't go to abstinence-only programs and "essentially double their funding," said Mr. Smith. So the "no new money" message "applies to it, too."
House Republicans aren't likely to support the Baucus program either, said an aide, who asked not to be identified. "It's a big deal because it would undo the parity with the contraception programs."


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