29 March 2010

Health Care Reform Revives Funding for Failed Abstinence-Only Approach

Federal funding for abortion, as we well know, has been front and center in the health-care debate. But what has received far less attention is the revival of federal funding for Bush-era abstinence-only-until-marriage programs (yep, the ones that prohibit any discussion of the benefits of contraception) in the final health-care bill. We find this incredibly hard to believe. After celebrating a long-fought, hard-won victory last year when President Obama let federal funding for the failed abstinence-only approach lapse, we join our grantees and other activists who are shocked and dismayed that such a discredited program is yet again alive.

Still, it is true: the final health-care reform bill includes funding – to the tune of $50 million a year – for the abstinence-only-until-marriage initiative, Title V. This reinstatement flies in the face of evidence – including a study commissioned by the federal government – that these programs are not only unsuccessful, but harmful. Evidence that Congress, says Joseph DiNorcia, Jr., president and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), a Ms. Foundation grantee partner, is well aware of:
[Congress has] the facts. They know that this program is harmful to young people, uses federal dollars to spread misinformation, fear, and shame, and is a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars. Who decided it was a good idea to forgo saving a quarter-of-a-billion dollars over the next five years and continue funding for a failed program that leaves young people at risk? Why this program is being brought back from the dead is a mystery.
Whatever the impetus, this is a frustrating setback for advocates of medically accurate, comprehensive sexuality education who for years worked tirelessly to convince state after state to reject abstinence-only-until-marriage funding. Now advocates will be forced – yet again – to resort to this approach. In the words of James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, also a Ms. Foundation grantee partner: “Together, we now have even more to do. We need to convince every governor in America to reject the bad funding for Title V programs and accept the good funding for evidence-based, comprehensive programs.”

It is also true that the health-care bill provides $75 million per year over five years for a new evidence-based “personal responsibility education program,” [see this analysis by the Guttmacher Institute] intended to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. But the implications of the nonsensical abstinence-only backtrack cannot be ignored: forced to resurrect their strategy to convince states to refuse abstinence-only funding, advocates will likely have to divert resources from the implementation of evidence-based, comprehensive sexuality education – district by district, school by school – which still, for all intents and purposes, remains a monumental task.

No comments:

Post a Comment