Sunday, April 11, 2010

Three months without federal abstinence-only funding

The US had 3 months without abstinence-only funding on the books before the health reform law reinstated it: $50 million a year for 5 years for the states, the exact same level of state-level abstinence funding as in the previous administration, even though fewer states are applying for the funds. Even Alaska under Sarah Palin "missed the deadline" for abstinence grants in the last round. (No Sarah Palin jokes. Missing the deadline just seems to be the politically expedient method of not participating in abstinence funding.)

The difference between current funding and the previous administration seems to be $154 million: community organizations are no longer given abstinence grants ($141 million in 2009) and the Adolescent Family Life abstinence program is no longer listed in the budget ($13 million in 2009). Not funding AFL is surprising, and I wonder if I've missed something since that program has been funded consistently since the early 1980s, but I don't see in the 2011 HHS budget; this program generally flies under the radar and is usually not mentioned in media reports about abstinence education, even though organizations like Advocates for Youth track it.

The decrease in abstinence-only education funding from $204 million to $50 million represents additional good news: the $50 million is going to states who are scrutinized more heavily. For instance, some states have laws requiring that all sex education be medically accurate. On the other hand, increasing numbers of states require contraception to be taught in sex education, which may mean that even if the states wanted to apply for the abstinence funds, their state law mandates a curriculum that is incompatible with the abstinence education requirements. The a-h definition of abstinence education in the Title V is so restrictive that the only abstinence-only program that has ever been shown effective (Jemmott and Jemmott's research) could not be funded under Title V.

Another difference between the pre-2009 and current HHS budgets is that abstinence was featured prominently in the budget in 2009 and before. Many pages of the pre-2009 budgets mentioned abstinence, and there was a whole subsection describing all the sources of abstinence funding and their histories. The 2011 budget doesn't have any text about abstinence and only includes abstinence in the itemized totals, mostly for past years, and has "--" where future years of abstinence funding are supposed to be listed. (The new 50 million a year isn't yet listed in the 2011 budget.)

While the country had only the 3 month period between the zero-ing out of abstinence education at the end of December 2009 and the passage of the health reform bill at the end of March 2010, there's certainly a big shift.

The really interesting question is how many states will apply for abstinence funds, since more states now have comprehensive sex education laws that are incompatible with applying for the funds, and whether it would be possible for the a-h definition to be changed. Or if the $50 million will go only to the states with strong abstinence-only constituencies such as Louisiana and Texas.

1 comment:

%Shocked% said...

Have you seen, or do the statistics exist, that the funding actually makes a difference down the line with the adolescents being abstinent? I mean, I would imagine that it makes a difference (at least a little bit), but 50 million dollars worth per state?