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House Budget Revives Money for Abstinence-Based Sex Ed

From guest blogger Nirvi Shah:

The U.S. House's $1 trillion spending bill released Wednesday revives an abstinence-based sexual education program killed by lawmakers just last year, and advocates and opponents of the program believe the Senate has agreed to resurrect the program, too.

The program was previously allowed to expire, although a separate abstinence-based education program was created shortly thereafter.

Although the House budget includes just $5 million for the Community-Based Abstinence Education program, opponents say this small line item has the potential to grow much larger. The group Advocates for Youth notes that the previous iteration of CBAE grew from $20 million in 2001 to $113 million before it expired in 2010.

"Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs promote ignorance in the era of HIV and AIDS," said Debra Hauser, the group's executive vice president. "Parents, medical experts, and young people agree that schools have a responsibility to provide sex education that includes information about both abstinence and contraception."

The National Abstinence Education Association hailed the House action.

"This really provides choice for the communities, choice to the schools," said Valerie Huber, the NAEA's executive director, adding that abstinence-based education programs are widely supported by parents. Advocates for Youth cited polls that find parents support more comprehensive sex ed, which includes information about abstinence and contraception.

One recent study found that abstinence-based sex ed can be effective, however federal rules governing these programs don't allow abstinence-based programs to be taught in the way the program found to be effective was taught.

The federal rules for abstinence programs require that those programs teach an abstinence-until-marriage message, but the program found effective focused on activities with messages warning that having sex at a young age can interfere with a teen's goals and dreams.

A 2007 congressionally mandated study found no statistically significant beneficial effect on the sexual behavior of young people participating in abstinence-based programs.

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