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Should the Government Fund Abstinence-Only Sex Education?

In the 2012 budget signed by President Obama last week, the House Appropriations Committee set aside $5 million for abstinence-only education programs, which encourage teens to wait until marriage before they have sex.

That money joins the $50 million of spending on abstinence education that House Republicans put into the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The additional $5 million in spending has re-ignited the debate on whether public schools should teach students about birth control methods.

Abstinence associations applauded Congress for the move. Between 1996 and 2009, more than $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars were spent on abstinence education, but President Obama abolished two of the largest federal programs funding abstinence education in 2010, the Community-Based Abstinence Education grant program and the Adolescent Family Life Act. Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, said that "parents across the country support such programming and will be gratified to see their tax dollars supporting the healthy message of abstinence."

Detractors vehemently oppose Congress' move. According to executive vice president of Advocates for Youth Debra Hauser, "Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs promote ignorance in the era of HIV aand AIDS. I am shocked that Congress would fund programs that ignore science and teach young people fear, shame, and denial."

Looking at the data, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of these programs. A 2007 congressional report found that students who participated in abstinence-only education had sex at the same age (and similar rates of pregnancy and STDs) as students who had comprehensive sex education. But, last year, a University of Pennsylvania study found that about one-third of sixth and seventh graders who enrolled in abstinence-only programs became sexually active within two years, while half of their peers who took comprehensive sex education classes became sexually active within the same time frame.

Do you think Congress should fund abstinence-only sex education programs? Or are comprehensive sex education programs more effective?

Photo Credit: brains the head

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