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Abstinence programs move into HHS agency

Abstinence programs move into HHS agency

Oversight of two of the nation's largest abstinence programs has shifted to a new agency within the federal Department of Health and Human Services, The Washington Times reports. The $50 million Title V and $104 million Special Projects of Regional and National Significance Community-Based Abstinence Education grant programs were placed under the stewardship of HHS's Administration for Children and Families. Oversight had previously been conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration's Maternal and Child Health Bureau. ACF director Wade Horn said HHS secretary Tommy Thompson moved oversight of the programs so they could be integrated into "the broader positive youth-development perspective that we have been pursuing at ACF." Horn, a child psychologist, added that abstinence "is the only 100% effective way" to avoid pregnancy, HIV, and sexually transmitted diseases. "The goal is to find the most effective strategies to help young people make that choice." Abstinence supporters, including Bruce Cook, of Choosing the Best program, and Libby Gray, director of Project Reality, praised the move, saying it will allow the federal government to better coordinate abstinence education with other youth programs. But supporters of comprehensive sex education say the move is strictly political and is aimed at reducing federal funding to groups that promote both abstinence and safer sex. Abstinence proponents have complained for years that MCHB, which previously had oversight of the abstinence programs, sometimes issued grants to groups that promoted condom use, according to the Times. Marcela Howell, public policy director at Advocates for Youth, which supports comprehensive sex education, criticized the move and said Horn "clearly has an ideology to push. It's very political."

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