Abstinence Funding Leaps Over Congress Hurdle, Heads to White House

Legislation to extend the funding for Title V abstinence education was approved by the U.S. House on Wednesday, making the White House the bill's next stop.

Funding for abstinence education-only provided by section 510 of Title V of the Social Security Act will be extended for another three months to complete the fiscal year. Under this section, states can receive funding for abstinence-only education if they apply for it.

The Senate had passed the bill to extend the program last month before it left for its Fourth of July recess, but the legislation was only approved by the House this week.

President Bush, a strong proponent of abstinence education, will most likely approve the bill. In 2002, he had submitted a budget reauthorization proposal of the program, but Congress had failed to act.

While supporters of the abstinence program are happy about the extension, they expressed concern about the future of the program beyond the three months.

"We applaud the extension of Title V state abstinence-education funding passed today by Congress and thank them for protecting our children, if only temporarily," said Linda Klepacki, analyst for sexual health at Focus on the Family Action, in a report.

"But, we look forward to the day that Congress will reauthorize Title V state abstinence-education funding in order to protect our children," she added.

In May – one month before federal funding for the program was set to expire – Democratic leaders had threatened to pull the plug on the bill by not renewing it. They held up a new report by the research firm Mathematica Policy Research which claims that abstinence-only programs had failed to prevent students from engaging in sexual intercourse.

Furthermore, opponents of the program pointed to the study's claim that students in the program had similar numbers of sexual partners and began having sex at the same mean age as those not in the program.

Upon a closer examination, however, it was found the report was based only on four abstinence education programs out of more than 900 available. Moreover, the four programs were voluntary and taught students aged 9-11 who were not evaluated until four to six years later.

"The fact is, the targeted children were too young to absorb the abstinence message, and there was no continuation education into the High School years when adolescents are more likely to engage in sexual activity," wrote S. Michael Craven, founding director of the Center for Christ & Culture, in a column featured in The Christian Post.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, forty-three states have received funding through Title V.

"If we don't fund abstinence education in our schools," Klepacki warned, "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."

Funding for the program, which was set to expire on June 30, will continue until the end of Fiscal Year 2007 (Sept. 30).