State support of abstinence programs varies widely

A report released Tuesday by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States shows that state support for abstinence-only sex education and HIV prevention programs for youth varies widely across the country, USA Today reports. Spending on abstinence programs was highest in the South and central Southern states and lowest in the Northeast. Arkansas, which ranked at the top of the list for abstinence spending for students in grades K-12, spends an average of $7.67 per student; New Hampshire, which had the lowest spending, spends just 21 cents per student. Most of the money spent by the states comes through federal grants. The Bush administration has proposed spending $258 million in fiscal 2005 on abstinence-only programs, double the level spent this year. California is the only state that receives no federal abstinence funds because state law mandates all sex education programs include medically accurate information on condom use and other ways to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies.

SIECUS president Tamara Kreinin says the amount of federal money received and spent on abstinence programs is a direct reflection of the political leanings in each state; the more conservative a state, the more likely it is to receive and spend larger sums on abstinence education. But SIECUS and other proponents of comprehensive sex education programs say abstinence programs aren't effective in lowering rates of premarital sex and unprotected sex. The new SIECUS study, which draws no specific conclusions about the effectiveness of abstinence education, shows that spending on abstinence education doesn't necessarily provide results: South Dakota, which ranks third on the list in abstinence spending at $6.56 spent per student, has a higher teen pregnancy rate than Maine, which spends just 85 cents per pupil on abstinence instruction.

Tags: Health, Health

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