NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How States Are Using Federal "Abstinence" Money

April 5, 1999

When Congress set aside $50 million a year for states to create abstinence-education programs to teach the benefits of delaying sex until marriage, every state in the nation ultimately applied for the money -- which became available in fiscal year 1998.

States are required to match every $4 they receive with $3.

But the states are using the money in various ways, which some critics charge has little to do with abstinence in a number of cases.

  • Some states have created classroom abstinence programs which teach the harmful effects of sex outside marriage -- while others have spent the money on media campaigns encouraging parents to talk to their children about sex, but never specifically linking sex and marriage.
  • Most states have split the money between education programs, media campaigns and community organizations.
  • While the federal law says that funds must be used for the "exclusive purpose" of teaching the benefits of abstinence, Utah is using its money to sponsor a hockey league.
  • The manager of Utah's reproductive health program defends its approach by arguing it is using the hockey league to promote good decision-making, self-esteem, resiliency and refusal skills.

"But we also recognize," she says, "that when kids are playing hockey, or basketball, it's hard for them to get involved in risky behavior."

A report being released today by the nonprofit Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States reveals that 25 states used some of the money for school programs, 23 used it for in-class instruction, and most offered some after- school programs as well.

Source: Tamar Lewin, "Sexual-Abstinence Grants Put to Broad Use by States," New York Times, April 4, 1999.


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