Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Great Piece in Argus Regarding Abstinence-Only Funding

Check out this great piece that was on Sunday's front page of the Argus Leader:

May 24, 2009

Abstinence-only focus loses favor, money
Sioux Falls-based organization unfazed by shift, but others say less federal funding curtails work
Josh Verges

EDGERTON, Minn. - For her final sex education lesson of the week, guest speaker Afton Johnson handed signs with phrases such as "trust," "similar dreams," and "in love" to 15 high school freshmen and asked them to line up in the proper order of a healthy relationship.After a couple minutes of shuffling, a boy stood at the far left of the classroom holding a card reading "high self-esteem." At the far right was a girl holding "sex," immediately preceded by another representing "marriage."For 13 years, that's been the order of things in federally funded sex education: Marriage is the norm and premarital sex is dangerous, according to abstinence-education guidelines established by Bill Clinton's Welfare Reform Act of 1996.

With continued support from George W. Bush, the federal government has spent almost $1.3 billion this decade on abstinence-only programs such as the one Johnson was teaching for a Sioux Falls-based program.But President Obama, relying on studies that show abstinence-only education is ineffective, now is proposing to change the message to one that promotes abstinence while also providing medically accurate information on contraception. That research includes two studies commissioned by Congress in recent years.

For South Dakota, where organizations focusing on abstinence-only education have thrived on millions of federal dollars in support of their mission, the shift could mean real changes in the way teens are taught about the birds and bees.And while Sioux Falls is home to a nationally prominent abstinence-advocacy organization, the group is not allowed in the city's public school classrooms.Obama's 2010 budget proposes to spend $178 million on teen pregnancy prevention. Between $75 million and $85 million would be spent on programs that have proved to delay sexual activity, increase use of contraceptives or reduce teen pregnancy.

Such comprehensive programs have been shown to delay sexual activity, reduce the number of sexual partners and increase contraceptive use. Most researchers agree abstinence-only programs have no effect on sexual activity.Up to $35 million would pay for "additional models and innovative strategies," which could include abstinence-only programs.

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