Abstinence-only advocates are relying on the Senate version of health reform legislation (HR 3590) for federal funding after the fiscal year 2010 budget did not include money for the programs, HealthLeaders Media reports. The Senate reform bill includes a provision that would allocate $50 million to states to fund abstinence-only curriculums. Valerie Huber -- president of the National Abstinence Education Association, which is lobbying for the Senate bill -- said, "We are hopeful the Senate language will prevail." Current funding expires June 30. "I think it's up in the air," Huber said, adding, "This is a grassroots issue, and we're relying on our members to communicate to members of Congress." The House health bill (HR 3962) does not include funding for abstinence-only programs. Huber said the victory of Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is one of the "elements in play" that could affect the future of the abstinence-only provision.

James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, said that there is no scientific evidence to show that the programs are effective. Wagoner supports comprehensive education programs, which cover abstinence and contraception. Such programs are slated to receive funding from both houses of Congress and the federal budget. Abstinence-only money should not be in health reform legislation, Wagoner said. "It has nothing to do with people who don't have health insurance," he said (Cantlupe, HealthLeaders Media, 1/20).

Faith Groups Play Larger Role as Federal Funding Wanes

In related news, the AP/Washington Post on Wednesday examined the role of private faith groups in supporting abstinence-only education programs as federal funding subsides. "With funding being cut from the government, you're going to see more responsibility placed on churches in the community to carry this banner," Michael Polite, assistant pastor at Riverside Chapel Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Nashville, Tenn., said.

Some supporters of the programs say that freedom from government funding would allow for more creative approaches to abstinence-only education. Current privately supported programs include purity balls, a National Day of Purity for teens, and events that feature performances, music videos and personal testimonies to promote abstinence.

Other abstinence-only supporters said the loss of government funding will be detrimental. "Churches will try to fill as much of the gap as they can, but they're not going to have the opportunity to have exposure to children that the abstinence programs have now," Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said (Johnson, AP/Washington Post, 1/20).

Reprinted with kind permission from nationalpartnership. You can view the entire Daily Women's Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery here. The Daily Women's Health Policy Report is a free service of the National Partnership for Women & Families, published by The Advisory Board Company.

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