12 June 2008

Senate to Consider Extending Abstinence-Only Funding in Medicare Bill

Two of the Ms. Foundation's national Sexuality Education Advocacy Initiative grantees are calling on voters to oppose an 18-month extension of the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program included in the Medicare package prepared by the Senate Finance Committee.

The grantees, Advocates for Youth and Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SEICUS), joined the Ms. Foundation and many other organizations in signing a letter to Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. The letter objects to continued funding of abstinence-only programs and their inclusion in a Medicare bill. It notes:

The Senate Medicare package extends these programs despite the mounting scientific and medical evidence indicating that abstinence-only-until-marriage funding is a poor public investment.

It is extremely noteworthy that at least 17 states have firmly rejected federal funding through Title V of the Social Security Act. Acting on principle and in the best interest of their youth, these governors have rebuffed a source of much needed revenue after concluding that these unduly restrictive and ideologically-driven programs were, at a minimum, ineffective and, at worst, harmful.

An eight-year, congressionally mandated evaluation published by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. in April 2007 shows that abstinence-only programs have no beneficial impact. Students who participated in a range of curricula funded through the federal Title V abstinence-only program were no more likely than non-recipients to delay sexual initiation, to have fewer partners, or to use condoms when they did become sexually active. [Report Executive Summary – PDF]

A November 2007 report by the nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy confirmed these findings, concluding that "[a]t present, there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners," and therefore there isn't "sufficient evidence to justify their widespread dissemination." [Report]

To find out more about how to promote comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education, visit Advocates for Youth and SEICUS. To send an email with your opposition to the extension of abstinence-only funding in the Medicare bill, you can join this effort organized by Advocates for Youth.

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