January 14, 2004

January 14, 2004 | News Releases on Sex Education and Abstinence

Gov't Spending On Contraception Outpaces Abstinence Funding 12 to One

WASHINGTON, JAN. 14, 2004 - Despite overwhelming evidence of the dangers of early sexual activity, the federal and state governments spend much more to promote "safe sex" than they do to encourage abstinence, according to a new study from The Heritage Foundation.

Combined, government spends 12 times more promoting family planning and contraception than it does promoting abstinence. In funding specifically targeted toward teenagers, governments spent nearly $4.50 on contraception for every $1 spent promoting abstinence in 2002.

Yet these spending priorities are the opposite of what the vast majority of parents say they want taught to their teens. In a recent Zogby poll, 85 percent of parents said the emphasis placed on abstinence for teens should be equal or greater than the emphasis placed on contraception. Only 8 percent said teaching teens to use condoms is more important than teaching them abstinence.

"Most safe sex/comprehensive sex-ed programs send a clear message that society expects and condones teen sexual activity," write social policy experts Melissa Pardue, Robert Rector and Shannan Martin. "The main message is it's OK for teens to have sex as long as they use condoms."

However, surveys show that's not what parents want their children to be taught. True abstinence programs-those that encourage teens to wait until marriage to begin sexual activity-are popular with parents because they work, the authors write. Despite this, "there is currently relatively little government funding for abstinence education," they say.

Many safe-sex or "comprehensive sex-ed" programs use graphic sexual materials that would alarm most parents, according to the authors. For example, the program "Focus on Kids" encourages middle- and high school couples to bathe together, masturbate, watch erotic movies and read explicit magazines. And a curriculum sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control urges these same-aged students to "think up a fantasy using condoms" and "use condoms as a method of foreplay." Often, proponents of these programs promote them using the deceptive label "abstinence plus," Rector says.

When Congress considers reauthorizing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families later this year, "any new monies devoted to preventing pregnancy should be directed not to amply funded contraception programs, but to underfunded abstinence education programs," Pardue, Rector and Martin write. That, they say, is the best way to encourage teens to delay sexual activity and help them prepare for intimacy, fidelity and a healthy marriage.

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