Abstinence funding survives a three-month extension


WASHINGTON, D.C.— President Bush is set to sign a three-month extension for Title V abstinence funding, and abstinence education leaders are urging supporters to use the August recess to contact their congressmen in order to secure a more extensive renewal of the funding.

The U.S. House passed legislation July 11 that extends funding for Title V abstinence education for three months—until the end of the fiscal year—the last day of September.

The Senate passed the bill last month. It now goes to the president.

Section 510 of Title V of the Social Security Act—established in 1996—allows money for abstinence-only education to be distributed to states that apply for it. Bush submitted a budget reauthorization proposal in 2002, but Congress failed to act. Title V funding has continued under a series of temporary reauthorizations and was set to expire on June 30. The three-month extension buys lawmakers little time to save the program.

A recent report by the National Center for Health Statistics found that the number of teenagers in the United States who have had sexual intercourse dropped from 54 percent in 1991 to 47 percent in 2005, and at least one analyst noted the significance of 1991.

"That's when we separated out abstinence education from contraceptive-based education," Linda Klepacki, an analyst for sexual health at Focus on the Family Action, told the online newsletter CitizenLink July 13. "We have seen a continual decline since 1991, so we can infer that we've had an effect with abstinence education in our public schools."

The report was based on questionnaires called the Youth Risk Behavior Survey completed by a cross-section of students at public and private high schools.

The study did not address a cause for the decline in teens' sexual involvement, but Joyce Abma, a social scientist for National Center for Health Statistics, acknowledged that the efforts to educate teens about the risks associated with sexual intercourse have "increased and intensified" during the past 10 years.

"Given how many of those efforts are going on, it is probably making an impact on both abstinence and responsible sexual behavior," she told CitizenLink.

Klepacki said people must continue to contact their federal lawmakers and ask them to support abstinence-until-marriage education funding beyond the three-month extension.

"We applaud the extension for Title V state abstinence-education funding passed today by Congress and thank them for protecting our children, if only temporarily," she said. "But, we look forward to the day that Congress will reauthorize Title V state abstinence-education funding in order to protect our children."

Abstinence education is vital to the health of teens and young adults, Klepacki added.

"If we don't fund abstinence education in our schools we will most likely see skyrocketing sexually transmitted infection rates, skyrocketing teen pregnancy and abortion rates, and a return to heavy dependency on welfare tax dollars," she said.