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Of the contentious issues debated in the new health reform law, advocacy for government funding of sex education programs teaching abstinence got scant attention. But a little-noticed section of the bill restores $250 million over five years for pregnancy-prevention courses that promote virginity among unmarried young people.
The funding was a victory for those favoring the abstinence approach, which gained momentum under former President George W. Bush, but lost currency in President Obama's first two budgets, the Washington Post reported Saturday.
"We're happy to see that funding will continue so the important sexual health message of risk avoidance will reach American teens," said National Abstinence Education Association Director Valerie Huber.
Of course, the debate over this aspect of sex education will range on, no matter what Congress does. James Wagoner, head of the Washington-based Advocates for Youth, said spending $250 billion "on abstinence-only programs that have already been proven to fail is reckless and irresponsible."
Whether teaching abstinence works in preventing unwanted pregnancies and controlling sexually-transmitted diseases is central to the argument. Under Bush, some analyses concluded the abstinence-only method was ineffective, and evidence emerged that a long decline in teenage pregnancies was reversing, the Post said. But a University of Pennsylvania researcher reported last month that a carefully-designed, morally neutral progam for pre-teens could work in "in delaying the onset of sexual activity."
The money in the health care law is ticketed for states that sponsor pregnancy-prevention and STD programs focused exclusively on encouraging children and adolescents to avoid sexual activity.
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