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Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage

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Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage:

A Waste of Public Funds

Each year millions taxpayer dollars are spent on abstinence-only-until marriage programs which have continually proven to be ineffective. There is no scientific evidence that young people in abstinence-only-until-marriage programsвЂ"those that censor information about contraceptionвЂ" feel positively about waiting until marriage before becoming sexually active. Yet since 1997, more than $87 million dollars have been spent to funding such courses. However, research shows that sexual education which teaches both abstinence and contraception is particularly valuable in preventing some of the negative consequences that can possibly come with sexual activity. What young people are in need of is comprehensive sex education. This is the only way to equip teens with knowledge that will allow them to make informed decisions regarding abstinence, peer pressure, and sex.

Government funding of Abstinence-only programs is not new. Starting in 1981, Under the Regan Administration, the federal government has unfailingly funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Funding for these unproven programs has grown considerably since 1996. Between 1996 and federal Fiscal Year 2005, Congress paid out more than $1.1 billion dollars (through both federal and state matching funds) to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. This year, the federal government has allocated $178 million through three separate funding streams for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. For Fiscal Year 2007, the President has proposed increasing this funding level to $204 million despite the lack of evidence that what is being taught by these programs is successful. Perhaps it is time to try a method that has already proven its effectiveness.

“Fear may be the only thing getting through. Many of these programs used curricula that rely on fear and shame and this may be the only message young people retain. The abstinence-only-until-marriage programs had a significant impact on young people’s perception of the consequences of teen sexual activity and non-marital sex. There remains no evidence that messages of fear and shame ultimately lead to responsible sexual behavior.” (Web Wire)

The curricula taught by abstinence-only programs are often rooted in specific religious beliefs and portray premarital sexual activity as immoral and universally harmful. As stated in an article by the American Civil Liberties Union, “These curricula violate the First Amendment's guarantee of the separation between church and state by using taxpayer money to endorse religious beliefs”. In order to comply with the federal definition, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs must present one family structure as morally correct and beneficial to society. Programs go beyond prescribing marriage and suggest that only married people have happy, successful lives. By focusing on the importance of raising children in a two-parent, heterosexual marriage, the guidelines may alienate young people who have single, divorced, widowed, or gay and lesbian parents, which encompasses a large number of families in the United States. These programs also alienate those who may have been unfortunate victims of sexual abuse.

An alarming number of young people in this country have been the victim of sexual abuse during their young lives. The U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics reports, “Sixty-seven percent of all victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were juveniles (under the age of 18); 34% of all victims were under age 12. One of every seven victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were under age 6. Forty percent of the offenders who victimized children under age 6 were juveniles (under the age of 18).” Unfortunately, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs fail to provide this vulnerable group of youth with information or skills that could help them cope with the issue of sexual abuse because these programs most often portray abstinence from sexual activity as a conscious choice over which a young person has total control. In reality, many young people do not have the choice to remain abstinent due to sexual abuse, rape, and/ or molestation. Federal guidelines for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs associate sexual abstinence with all things virtuous and sexual activity with a life doomed to failure. Not only is this untrue, but it serves to inflict greater harm upon those who have had survived coerced sexual behavior. Such messages are likely to cause further feelings of hurt, shame, anger, and embarrassment in these already victimized young people.

Still, there are another group of teens whose needs are not being acknowledged by the

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