- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A draft budget bill for government funding for next year would open the door for distribution of abstinence funds that have otherwise been bottled up, says an abstinence-education advocacy group.

Despite the change, most federal funding will still flow to programs that teach comprehensive sexuality education, according to the negotiated omnibus funding bill passed this week. A full vote on the budget is expected soon in the House and the Senate.

In its recent federal budgets, Congress allocated $5 million for abstinence education — now called “sexual risk avoidance” or SRA — compared with about $131 million for comprehensive sexuality education programs.

Now, with a House-designed rider, some $12 million in the Title V Abstinence Education program will be available to states that want to fund activities that meet its specifications. Title V grantees, for instance, must teach that school-age children are expected to abstain “from sexual activity outside marriage” and that “a mutually faithful, monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity.”

“Nearly 75 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds have not had sex, so it makes sense that sex education policy would reinforce those healthy decisions,” said Valerie Huber, president and chief executive of the National Abstinence Education Association.

The “demand for SRA abstinence education exceeds the funding for it, but this provision within the House appropriations bill will certainly help,” Ms. Huber said, referring to the Title V rider.

Another $5 million is available for sexual risk avoidance education in competitive grants from the Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services.

The bulk of sex education funding goes to programs that may or may not emphasize sexual abstinence to schoolchildren, but teach children and teens how to avoid unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and sexually risky behaviors.

Under the omnibus bill negotiated Tuesday night, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative and Division of Adolescent and School Health programs are “level funded” at $101 million and $31 million, respectively, said the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.

Council officials said they were “very disappointed” that “Congress continues to advance funding for [sexual risk avoidance] programs that have been proven to be ineffective,” while sex education programs like the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative were not expanded.

There is ongoing debate over the efficacy of sex education programs, since there is wide variance in program types, outcome measures and the groups of students that are tested.

However, federal data have found consistent evidence that young Americans generally delay their “sexual debut” until later in adolescence and use contraception when they begin to have sex.

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