New York Declines Federal Funds For Abstinence-Only Sex Education Programs

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Abstinence-Only Sex Education Programs

New York state has rejected about $3.5 million in funding from thefederal Title V abstinence education program, state health commissionerRichard Daines announced in a statement Thursday, the New York Timesreports. According to Daines, $2.6 million that the state provided forthe same abstinence program will be spent on other sex educationprograms (Medina, New York Times, 9/21).

Title Vdistributes money based on a formula favoring states with morelow-income children. To receive Title V funds, states must adhere tocertain requirements, including barring teachers from discussingcontraception and requiring them to say that sex within marriage is"the expected standard of sexual activity." Many state governors havesaid the grants place too many restrictions on the curricula (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 7/18). According to the Times, at least 11 states have decided to decline Title V funding in recent years.

"TheBush administration's abstinence-only program is an example of a failednational health care policy directive," Daines said, adding that thepolicy is "based on ideology rather than on sound scientific-basedevidence that must be the cornerstone of good public health carepolicy."

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According to Daines, the state made the decision basedon evidence that the abstinence-only program did little to prevent teenpregnancies. He added that he also objected to the program's "narrowideological view, which is not the direction [New York] want[s] to goin for sexual health." The state should encourage the teaching ofcondom use and include discussions of abstinence, Daines said. Sexeducation is not mandated by the state, and individual districts areallowed to adopt their own programs, the Times reports.

NYCLU Report, Reaction

Daines' announcement came the same day that the New York Civil Liberties Union,which opposes abstinence-only sex education, released a reportdetailing the number of abstinence-only programs in the state, the Timesreports. According to the report, New York state is second to Texas inthe amount of funding it receives for abstinence education. "We thinkit is a good thing that [the state is] making efforts to close programsthat were misinforming adolescents," Galen Sherwin -- director of the Reproductive Rights Projectfor the NYCLU and author of the report -- said, adding, "But there isstill a long way to go before you get to comprehensive, medically soundsex education."

Supporters of the program said that it shouldstill remain an option in the state. "We've seen a lot of attacks onthis program," Leslee Unruh, president of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse,said, adding, "A lot of kids that are abstaining are made to feel as ifthey are from a Victorian age and they are not with the 'Sex and theCity' crowd" (New York Times, 9/21).

Dennis Poust, a spokesperson for the New York State Catholic Conference,said, "Most people would agree that teenagers are too young to behaving sex, therefore the consistent message to them ought to be thatthis is a behavior that is undesirable and you should refrain from it."He added, "The idea of so-called comprehensive sex education sounds OKat first blush, but what the children are being taught is instructionin condom usage, which leads to promotion of sexual activity" (Crowley,Albany Times Union, 9/21).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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