Abstinence-Only Lies Swirl on the Hill

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Abstinence-Only Lies Swirl on the Hill

Joe Sonka

Abstinence-only proponents complain that comprehensive sex ed gets many times the funding that ab-only does -- a complete lie. In fact, comprehensive sex ed gets no dedicated federal funding.

Last week, Capitol Hill was deluged with false talking points from the abstinence-only crowd, as they held their annual "Abstinence on the Hill"
Lobby Day. While I’ve gone over several of these falsehoods ("0%" of
comprehensive sex education programs talk about abstinence, "0%" of
unintended pregnancies would have been prevented with contraceptive
access), one that was repeatedly mentioned and deserves some attention
is their claim that comprehensive sex education receives more money
than abstinence-only education. Several referred to the "fact" that it
receives "double" the funding, or "ten times" the funding. All they
wanted was "parity" in funding between the two programs.

Such statements are, of course, completely false. The fact of the
matter is, there is no dedicated federal funding stream for
comprehensive sex ed programs. None.

This is an old falsehood used by the abstinence-only movement, claiming
that all Title X funding is actually for "comprehensive sex education".
In reality, Title X funding
goes towards health services for low income women and adolescents. They
provide not only contraceptive methods, but Pap smears, breast exams,
screening and treatment for STIs, and screening for hypertension,
diabetes, and anemia. For a large number of these young women, this
serves as their primary health care and will be the only doctor’s visit
that they have during the year.

But this hasn’t stopped them from trying to muddy the issue with this
blatant falsehood. The strategy is the same wherever you look in their
circles: use "comprehensive sex ed" interchangeably with "contraceptive
programs" or "contraception education" until they become the same
thing. The Abstinence Clearinghouse claims that "contraceptive education" receives 12 times the funding of abstinence-only programs, while the Heritage Foundation uses this same figure, directly using the term "comprehensive sex ed programs."

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Keith Deltano, a "comedian/abstinence educator" in Florida, also tries to push this falsehood on his website. On a graph that he recently sent out in an email blast
labeled "are you smarter than a 6th grader", he tries to claim that
funding for contraception education and programs corresponds with the
rise in teen births, and that they only began to decline once
abstinence-only programs started to receive funding.

While it’s somewhat doubtful that a 6th grader would concoct such a
blatantly dishonest piece of propaganda such as this, it’s quite
possible that a sixth grader could read about Title X programs and
realize this is in no way constitutes teaching comprehensive sex
education to youth.

First off, the red line of course has nothing to do with comprehensive
sex education, as this was a steady "0" over this time frame. Secondly,
even if it was, the cuts to Title X funding in the Reagan/Bush era and
late in Bush Jr.’s term show a corresponding increase in the teen birth
rate. And finally, notice the convenient absence of data at the end of
the graph regarding the teen birth rate. With abstinence-only funding
reaching record levels in 2006 and 2007, the 14-year trend of
decreasing teen birth rates reverses (with this week’s CDC report showing it going up for the second year in a row, by 1.4%).

But this kind of misinformation from Keith Deltano shouldn’t be a
surprise. After all, he makes his living being paid by these
abstinence-only groups to scream at young people about how condoms
"don’t work" and demonstrates this by holding cinder blocks over the
genitals of students lying down in front of him. Seriously, check it out. He’s even scarier (and sweatier) than Derek the Abstinence Clown.

With this week’s introduction of the REAL Act
by Sen. Lautenberg and Rep. Lee, we can be sure to see these
misinformation tactics come out of the woodwork, yet again. The REAL
Act would finally provide a direct funding stream for comprehensive sex
education. But what will we hear from the abstinence-only lobby? "They
already get 12 times the funding that we do! You just want to give them

Let’s be prepared for this false talking point in the coming weeks. You can beat them to the punch by letting your Congressperson know the real truth: it’s time to finally start funding real, science-based comprehensive sex education that actually gets results.

This post first appeared on Amplify.