Breaking News: Abstinence Only Funding Dying

Lynda Waddington

The tide is turning against federal funding for abstinence-only education as Congress is given the chance to dry up one stream of funding. Will they take it?

Abstinence only funding through Title V, Section 510 has been on life-support since June. Today it seems that Congress is prepared to unplug the equipment.

Officials in the office of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have confirmed that language regarding the reauthorization of the program — previously attached to the Children's Health Insurance Program bill by the U.S. House — was not included in the final language of the compromise bill issued today. The action leaves Congress a nine-day window to reauthorize this stream of federal funding for abstinence only education.

Nationwide the program provides more than $40 million a year in matching funds to states. The state hardest hit if the program expires on Sept. 30 is Texas, which garnered nearly $5 million for state-run and/or state-approved abstinence only sex education programs. The program allows states to re-issue funds to community-based programs that, in turn, provide abstinence only education to schools, civic groups, churches and parents.

The prospect of Title V, Section 510 language surviving the conference process of meshing legislation between the U.S. House and Senate was dim from the beginning. In addition to reauthorizing the program for another five years, members of the House changed federal guidelines that govern not only that particular funding stream for abstinence education, but all three streams of funding. The new guidelines were less strict and called for information distributed through the programs to be medically-accurate and research-based — something Republican legislators have previously opposed.

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As it stands now, however, even if this avenue of funding expires, the original guidelines remain in place for the remaining two streams — Community-Based Abstinence Education, originally known as Special Projects of Regional and National Significance-Community-Based Abstinence Education, and the Adolescent Family Life Act, a part of Title XX. Under Title V funding, states ultimately decided which programs received funding. For both CBAE and AFLA, however, all decisions bypass the state approval process. Between the remaining two programs, the federal government distributes more than $120 million.

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