Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is there any federal funding for comprehensive sex education?

When I use federal budget figures, I get all of them from the federal budget: I download the HHS budget and search the PDF for the programs I'm interested in, and I add up the numbers that come up in the search for "abstinence." That's how I got $204 million as the figure for abstinence-only sex education, for instance. Other media cite $176 million, but that excludes some of the funding mechanisms that go to abstinence.

I have never seen any indication that there was any federal funding at all for comprehensive sex education, so I have been continually confused by claims of the abstinence-only folks that comprehensive sex education has some big money pot dedicated to it. I figured that they were counting some portion of Title X funding as "comprehensive sex education" --- Title X is family planning, used primarily for teen pregnancy prevention. (Of course in the past several years they were required to follow the shutting the barn door after the horse escaped approach by teaching abstinence to their patients coming for pregnancy and STD tests.) But because I saw it repeated so often I thought maybe there was a grain of truth in their claims that there was federal funding for comprehensive sex education.

It turns out that as I had originally suspected the claims about federal funding for comprehensive sex education seem to be out of context, counting Title X as sex education funds even though they don't go to schools and are intended primarily to pay for reproductive health care for millions of women. (About 5 million, if I recall correctly.)

I'm disappointed by this distortion. Like many others, I agree with the goal of the abstinence movement to encourage delayed sex and fewer partners, (though it's much more complicated than just that!), and there are plenty of real balanced reasons for those goals, making it all the more disappointing that some in the movement distort budget figures and scientific research (e.g., the famous condom effectiveness.)

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