This week SIECUS released the
sixth edition of our SIECUS
State Profiles: A Portrait of Sexuality Education and Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage
Programs in the States.
Since the beginning, we were clear with our readers that this is not
a publication to be read from beginning to end. The current edition
covering Fiscal Year 2008, for example, spans more than 700 pages replete
with graphs and notes and a profile on every state in the country.
To that extent, SIECUS State Profiles is a reference volume and
is the most complete resource of its kind. We are pleased that
over the years, it has served us, our advocacy colleagues, and policymakers
in advancing a mission that recognizes that young people have a right
to full and comprehensive information if we as a society expect them
to make good and responsible decisions about sex.
Bill Smith, VP of Policy at SIECUS, discusses the release of the 2008 report detailing the spending of federal abstinence only funds on a state by state basis.
And make no mistake – this
year’s edition documents the progress that has been made over the
years and couches it within the larger and more favorable environment
we are in. First, let it not go unsaid that we have now, for the
first time in history, a President in the White House who supports age
appropriate, medically accurate sex education for America’s school-aged
youth. It’s a far cry from the unfulfilled plea to double funding
for failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs offered by President
Bush in his 2004 State of the Union Address to Congress. What
a difference an election makes. And while we await the details
of how President Obama will lead on this issue, we and others are already
calling for an unequivocal end to federal money to the failed abstinence-only-until-marriage
industry and a significant investment in a proven, more comprehensive
approach to sex education.
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Taking such a step nationally
would be recognition of the national paradigm shift away from abstinence-only-until-marriage
programs and toward comprehensive sex education. Our research
this year shows that there are now seven states that are completely
free of any federal abstinence-only-until-marriage money. The
list is not made up of bastions of leftist thinking, as some might expect.
The current list of seven states includes Delaware, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Rhode
Island, Vermont, and Wyoming. Up from just four states the
year prior and only one the year prior to that, we continue to see a
rejection of the failed and extremist proposition that expects much
from young people while providing them with only a fraction of the information
Our research also shows that
nearly half of the states continue to reject federal abstinence-only-until-marriage
money they are eligible to receive under the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage
program. Twenty-three states from Alaska (I’ll spare all of us yet another
Palin crack) to Maine are telling the federal government
that taking funding for failed and extreme programs is anathema to the
responsibility of government to its citizens and they need money for
more comprehensive programs that actually have evidence behind them.
If science is back, abstinence-only-until-marriage is out and the states
are speaking that language in spades. That nearly every state
in the Union finds itself in a severe financial crisis and could use
money – any money – also speaks volumes about leaving this particular
tainted federal money on the table.
We did focus on a few specific
trends this year though to highlight where additional attention ought
to be paid. First, our research shows that despite the complete
rejection of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs on the grounds
of evidence showing they are a failure and the total rebuke they garner
from every major public health entity in this country, nearly 50 hospitals
and health departments are recipients of federal abstinence-only-until-marriage
dollars. We know that in many cases, it was the lure of easy money
that led these entities down this path, but they are betraying the public
trust and it is time for them to side with the public health rationale
and end participation in the failed abstinence-only-until-marriage experiment.
We also looked this year at
where abstinence-only-until-marriage funding is trending geographically
given the collapse in support for the failed industry. Not surprisingly,
the south, which can least afford failed programming given its high
teen pregnancy rates and other less than admirable adolescent health
indicators, now consumes nearly half of all federal abstinence-only-until-marriage
money. Almost $82 million was funneled into sixteen southern states
in 2008. One colleague from Mississippi summed this up well for me:
"We’re a poor state, we’ll take any money we can get."
Also new this year, we included
three new profiles covering Puerto
Rico, the U.S Virgin Islands and the U.S.
Puerto Rico is in the midst of its own HIV/AIDS crisis so it was bit
shocking to learn that more than $3 million goes into the island.
One grantee operating in 25 of San Juan’s schools uses some of the
worst abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula available.
The newest edition of SIECUS
State Profiles represents progress made, but also much work yet
to be done. However, our hope is that the end of federal abstinence-only-until-marriage
funding and investment in comprehensive sex education can help remake
the sex education landscape across the country and in turn, turn the
State Profiles into a new type of publication in the years ahead.
In the meantime, we hope it continues to be a foundational resource
for advocates everywhere engaged in the good fight.