July 16, 2011

19RNS: Abstinence Education: Restory Federal Funding, Congress Urged

ABSTINENCE EDUCATION: Restore Federal Funding, Congress Urged

BY DAVID ROACH                                                                                                            ©2011 Baptist Press

A request that at least half of sex education funds be devoted to abstinence education in the 2012 federal budget has been signed by a bipartisan coalition of 40 members of Congress and sent to House Appropriations Committee chair Harold Rogers and ranking member Norman Dicks.

"Federal community-based abstinence education programs are strongly supported by parents and 22 separate studies have demonstrated their effectiveness," the letter states. "Unfortunately, funding for these programs was eliminated in [fiscal year 2010] and [fiscal year 2011].... Therefore, unless a unique program is reestablished that prioritizes the risk avoidance abstinence message, adolescents will be largely without access to the tools they need to delay sexual activity."

Meanwhile, a federal grant program promoting healthy marriages has declared any organization teaching abstinence to high school students as ineligible for funding.

The 50-50 funding split proposed in the letter would help remedy the current 16 to 1 disparity between federal dollars spent on contraception-based sex education and those spent on abstinence education, according to Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA).

"This letter I think is very significant because members of Congress are seeing that, first of all, enough is enough," Huber told Baptist Press regarding the letter and its signatories, the majority of whom are Republican members of Congress.

"Why are we devoting so much federal money to a risk reduction message when we are not empowering young people with the healthiest message, which is abstinence education--particularly as we see research showing that more and more teens are choosing to be abstinent? The trend is going in the right direction. And yet we have nothing that is going to encourage them in those good decisions? It's unconscionable."

The co-founder of True Love Waits, a Southern Baptist initiative teaching a biblical approach to abstinence, applauded members of Congress who signed the letter.

"Students are bombarded daily with messages that promote pre-marital sexual activity," said Jimmy Hester of LifeWay Christian Resources. "It is encouraging that these members of Congress recognize how vitally important it is to give young people a positive message about the benefits of remaining abstinent until marriage. What our youth need today is less sex education and more love education."

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