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A companion bill to the 1996 Welfare Reform Act allocated $50 million a year to support abstinence-only sex education. With the bill's five-year term expiring this year, the bill will soon go before Congress for reauthorization.

Two weeks ago, George Bush announced his welfare renewal plan, which increased the funding of abstinence-only sex education programs to $135 million annually through 2007.

"When our children face a choice between self-restraint and self-destruction, government should not be neutral," Bush said in announcing his plan February 26. "Government should not sell children short by assuming they are incapable of acting responsibly. We must promote the good choices."

Opponents argue that to be effective, sex education programs teach both abstinence and contraception. Three House representatives, Republican James C. Greenwood of Pennsylvania and Democrats Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee of California, have introduced the Family Life Education Act (H.R. 3469) in response to Bush's proposal. The legislation would grant funds to programs that teach both contraception and abstinence.

The representatives also sent a letter to Bush—signed by 77 state and national organizations—saying no evidence proves that abstinence education works on its own. Increased grants for such programs, the letter said, are "dangerous and unnecessary."

The New York Times reports that an extensive study funded by the federal government is looking at the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs. Preliminary data will be released next year.

Past studies have shown success in abstinence programs. In a 2001 study by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health published in the American Journal of Sociology, researchers found that teens who ...

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March 2002

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