Gaining Ground on Sex Ed: Five Years of SIECUS State Profiles

Joseph DiNorcia Jr

Five years ago, federal funding for abstinence-only programs had ballooned and only California was refusing Title V abstinence-only funds. But the present portrait -- flat funding and 25 states refusing funds -- is very different.

Today, SIECUS is pleased to
release the Fiscal Year 2007 SIECUS State Profiles: A Portrait of
Sexuality Education and Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in the
.  This document, the largest and most comprehensive
that SIECUS produces each year, provides a profile of each individual
state and the District of Columbia.  It includes the most recent
data on where federal abstinence-only-until-marriage dollars are being
spent and important Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Study (YRBSS) statistics
that were released in June of this year.  This is the fifth annual
edition of the State Profiles, and, after half a decade, I thought it
was a good opportunity to look back on how far we have come. 

As recently as Fiscal Year
2003, the first year of the Profiles,
we were dealing with a very different situation. Federal funding for
abstinence-only-until-marriage programs had ballooned almost 100 percent
since 2000 to a whopping $117 million dollars.  At the same time,
only one state, California, was refusing Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage
funds.  But the present portrait is very different. State and national partners across the country have
held the line on funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and they
have received the same amount of federal money for the past four years. 
Given two of these were Republican-led Congresses, flat funding has
been no small feat and underscores the precarious future of these programs. 
Also, 24 other states have since joined California in refusing Title
V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding.  The great gains that
the abstinence-only-until-marriage industry made in the late 90s and
early 2000s have been, to a large degree, halted in the face of overwhelming
scientific evidence and common sense. 

The news is not all good, however. 
The amount of federal funding that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs
receive each year comes in at a staggering $176 million, totaling over
$1.5 billion spent since funding began in 1982.  One hundred and thirteen million dollars of
these annual funds are coming from federal Community Based Abstinence
Education (CBAE) grants.  While much attention is made in the news
about important and systemic progress made in states refusing Title
V abstinence-only-until-marriage funds, it is important to remember
that it is money from CBAE grants that makes up the vast majority of
federal-abstinence-only-until marriage funding, and that CBAE funds
go directly to local and community organizations, without any regulation
by the states.  The State Profiles detail where every one
of those CBAE dollars went and reviews some of the worst programs they

The real victims in this situation
continue to be the young people who are receiving misleading, biased,
or false information through tax-payer funded abstinence-only-until-marriage
programs, and who have missed the opportunity to receive good, comprehensive
sex education.  The teen birth rate is up 3 percent nationally,
the first time in 15 years that we have seen any increase, and one in
four teenage girls is infected with an STD. New estimates of HIV incidence
are a national shame and substantiate the jettisoning of evidence-based
prevention strategies in favor of the failed abstinence-only-until-marriage
approach.  Additionally, communities made vulnerable to poor health
outcomes, including racial and ethnic minorities, continue to suffer
from the highest and most disproportional rates of STDs and unintended
pregnancy.  Many communities and states in the South also trail
the nation in vital health statistics, and it is there that the majority
of federal abstinence-only dollars, nearly $85 million annually, goes.  It is time that we put our resources toward
solving these problems and reversing these trends, rather than continuing
to throw good money after bad by supporting failed abstinence-only-until-marriage

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I hope, to this end, that the
State Profiles
will continue to be a vital tool for advocates at
the local, state and national levels.  Local advocates will benefit
specifically from seeing what groups and programs are receiving money
right in their own backyards, finding contact information for newspapers,
and learning what other organizations are active in their state, both
for and against comprehensive sexuality education.  Advocates on
the national level will be able to draw comparisons for federal policy
makers by comparing their state to others, not only in money received,
but in youth behavior statistics and other important trends.  

We find ourselves standing
at a moment of golden opportunity.  Congress recently held its
first ever hearings on the effectiveness of abstinence-only-until-marriage
programs, and advocates on the state and local levels have redoubled
their efforts to bring real, comprehensive sexuality education back
into our schools.  Good advocacy and efforts to change public policy
are based on sound analysis and research and we hope the State Profiles
will continue to provide this foundation as we mark tremendous progress
and together, tackle the obstacles still ahead.    

For the full State Profiles, click here.

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