- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2007

The fate of the nation’s core abstinence-education program in the House looks uncertain.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell recently told the Associated Press that he was not inclined to renew the $50 million-a-year Title V abstinence-education grant program, which expires June 30.

“Abstinence-only seems to be a colossal failure,” said Mr. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, citing a recent federal evaluation that showed students in abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex as those who weren’t in the programs.

However, ranking committee member Rep. Joe L. Barton, Texas Republican, and more than a dozen Republican members plan to offer an amendment to extend the funding of the Title V program, as well as the Transitional Medicaid Assistance (TMA) program, for another three months. Title V is “linked” to the TMA program; they expire together and have traditionally been renewed together.

In addition, House Republican Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said that any effort to “kill” abstinence education is misguided because most parents in America support abstinence education.

Mr. Boehner cited a May 9 letter from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that warned if the federal government embraced the “safer-sex” contraceptive-education approach, “Catholic schools and other organizations dedicated to the message of personal responsibility and abstinence before marriage will be unable to participate in government programs.”

Comprehensive sexuality-education advocates have stepped up their calls for Congress to abandon abstinence programs, including the $113 million Community-Based Abstinence Education program that is awaiting consideration by the House Appropriations subcommittee on labor, health and human services, education and related agencies.

A new article by Heather Boonstra in the Guttmacher Institute’s Policy Review critiques abstinence education. “Congress should break with the past and invest our scarce public dollars where we know they will have the greatest impact — into a more comprehensive approach to sex education,” she said.

Abstinence supporters are speaking out, too.

The National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) recently released a Zogby International poll that shows most parents prefer abstinence messages to comprehensive sex messages once they hear the differences in the approaches.

In the poll, 50 percent of the 1,002 parents of children ages 10 to 16 initially said they wanted comprehensive sex education for their children. However, after being asked about specific sex-education issues, many parents changed their minds: Sixty-one percent said they preferred abstinence programming over sex education.

“While abstinence education has been continually misrepresented by its opponents, we were confident that parents would strongly prefer abstinence education over so-called ‘comprehensive’ sex education after they received full, accurate information about this common-sense educational approach,” said Valerie Huber, executive director of the NAEA.

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