Thursday, May 7, 2009

Obama's 2010 Budget Eliminates Federal Funding For Abstinence-Only Sex Ed

The Obama Administration today released its 2010 budget that eliminates federal funding for a range of abstinence-only sex education programs.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy organization immediately released a statement on the news that President Obama proposes ending federal government funding of abstinence-only sex education programs:
President Obama released his FY 2010 budget today and called for at least $164 million in funding for a new teen pregnancy prevention initiative. This includes competitive grants for evidence-based programs, research and evaluation, and an authorization for $50 million in new mandatory teen pregnancy prevention grants to states, tribes, and territories. The budget eliminates funding for Community-Based Abstinence Education and the mandatory Title V Abstinence Education program.
-- Texas has received more federal abstinence-only education funding than any other state,yet Texas has the nation’s third-highest teen pregnancy rate. Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry supports the existing abstinence-only sex ed policy encoded in Texas law. What will Perry say in response to the news that Obama's 2010 budget eliminates federal funding for abstinence-only sex ed?? -- - Shelby Knox writes about her experience with abstinence-only education in Lubbock, Texas high school:
Every year when I was in high school in Lubbock, Texas, we were herded into the auditorium for a lecture from a local youth pastor about the birds and the bees.

At the culmination of every presentation, the pastor pulled a girl up onstage, produced a dirty, dingy toothbrush from his pocket and asked if she would brush her teeth with it. When she invariably said no, he pulled out another toothbrush, this one in its original box, and repeated the question. When she said yes to that one, he brandished the rejected toothbrush above his head and announced to the audience, "If you have sex before marriage, you are the dirty toothbrush."

A report recently released on the state of sex education in Texas [by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN)] details other bizarre things students are taught in the classroom about sex, contraception and their bodies, all subsidized by federal dollars. One skit, titled "Jumping Off the Bridge," concludes that giving a condom to a teen is like saying, "Well if you insist on killing yourself by jumping off the bridge, at least wear these elbow pads." Another presentation equates pre-marital sex with instances of marital murder-suicide. Still another compares women's sexuality to crock pots that take awhile to get warmed up, and men's to microwaves that are ready to cook at a moment's notice.

An entire generation of American teens has been confused, misinformed and endangered by abstinence-only-until-marriage programs like these. They are not just paid for by the federal government; states can't use these dollars for anything else.

In the past 15 years alone, more than a billion taxpayer dollars have been doled out to every state to teach curricula that often contain factual inaccuracies about condoms and contraceptives, generalizations about sexuality that are based on biases about gender and sexual orientation, and religious messaging that probably violates the U.S. Constitution.

The programs were a pet project of the Bush administration, and key to attracting votes and contributions from the religious right. Now, much of the money is still being doled out to faith-based organizations and crisis pregnancy centers, the latter often stating as their sole purpose the convincing of pregnant women, including ten and twelve year-olds and their families, that having an abortion will mean a lifetime of regret.

Unbelievable as it may sound, there is no federal law mandating or supervising the medical or scientific accuracy of information taught in schools or given out in tax-exempt pregnancy centers, a loophole used to tell young people that condoms don't work, homosexuality is never part of normal human behavior and sexuality is the one academic subject in which students will be rewarded for lack of knowledge.

In fact, abstinence-only sex education is so damaging that 25 governors, Republicans and Democrats, have refused abstinence-only funds. [Republican Gov. Rick Perry has said he supports the the existing abstinence-only policy. "The governor is comfortable with current law and supports abstinence programs," said Perry's spokeswoman, Allison Castle.] Rising rates of sexually transmitted infections, unwanted teen births and an increased need for abortion have dramatized the inefficacy and danger of such programs. And last year, the Journal of Adolescent Health published its opinion that abstinence-only funding may constitute a human rights violation.

The huge majority of Americans agree. 88% think teens should receive information about condoms and contraception as well as abstinence in the classroom. Yet, no moves have been made in Washington to make good on these convictions.
President Obama's 2010 budget does move to bring an attitude of realistic common sense to sex education. Obama's budget proposal invests in programs that are effective and based on sound science. Obama's approach is reminiscent of the Clinton Administration's teen pregnancy prevention programs, initiated shortly after he took office in 1993, that resulted in a decade long substantial drop in teen pregnancies across the U.S.

After falling steadily for more than a decade, the birth rate for American teenagers again started to increase in a sharp reversal as the Bush Administration and Republican controlled congresses increased federal funding and focused emphasis on abstinence-only sex education programs across the U.S.

The teen birth rate rose by 3 percent between 2005 and 2006 among 15-to-19-year-old girls, after plummeting 34 percent between 1991 and 2005, according to National Center for Health Statistics. After the teen birth rate rose sharply between 1986 and 1991, hitting an all-time high of 61.8 births per 1,000 girls, a massive comprehensive sex education campaign countered that trend and teen pregnancies plummeted between the 1990s and 2005.

Texas has received more federal abstinence-only education funding than any other state in the country, yet Texas has the nation’s third-highest teen pregnancy rate. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) a Texas teen gets pregnant every 10 minutes.

According to a report (PDF Full/Summary) released in February by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) a majority of Texas schools use scare tactics and teach false information in their sex education classes. TFN's two-year study of education materials from 990 Texas school districts showed that about 94 percent of public schools use abstinence-only programs that usually pass moral judgments while giving inaccurate information on contraception and health screenings or ignoring the subjects altogether. (Watch TFN's "Sex Ed...Texas Style" videos)

A large 2008 federal study,confirmed several previous studies in its finding that abstinence only sex eduction is not as effective as comprehensive sex education. "Taking an [abstinence] pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior, but it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking," according to Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Ms. Rosenbaum's report, that appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics, highlights that:
Teenagers who receive abstinence-only sex education and pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a large federal survey released last month.
Ignoring all facts and evidence that the "just say no" abstinence-only sex education approach does not stop or even reduce the numbers of teens who have sex, Texans for Life Coalition representative Kyleen Wright gave testimony before the Texas House Public Education Committee on March 31, 2009 making a "full court press" for the position that only "abstinence-only sex ed" should be taught in Texas schools. It was Wright who successful lead the fight to keep any medically accurate information about contraception and disease prevention out of new Texas high school health textbooks in 2004.

The House Public Education Committee was taking public comment on HB 741 (by State Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio) that would end a requirement that Texas public schools devote attention to abstinence-only sex education. The House Bill, HB 741, if passed, would remove much of the controversial and unsound language from the Texas Education Code that places abstinence education above responsible instruction about sex education and sexually transmitted diseases.

The fact that abstinence-only sex education translates to a higher tax payer burden to support teen mothers and their babies was all but ignored. Texas Medicaid paid for 17,322 deliveries to teen mothers aged-13-17 last year at a cost of $41 million. That $41 million is on top of the many millions of dollars tax payers are spending on a government sponsored abstinence-only public school sex education program that is a proven failure!!

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