Abstinence-Only No More: President Obama Eliminates $10 Million In Federal Budget For Controversial Sex Education Method

Abstinence-only sex education will cut after President Obama eliminated a $10 million-a-year grant that funded the controversial curriculum in public schools.

Obama made the cut in his proposed 2017 federal budget, eliminating funding that had gone through the Department of Health and Human Services.

The move earned widespread praise, with the The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. releasing a statement praising Obama for instead filtering funding to more effective methods of sex education.

“SIECUS is grateful for President Obama’s leadership in seeking to end abstinence-only-until-marriage funding once and for all. After three decades and nearly $2 billion in federal spending wasted on this failed approach, the President’s proposed budget increases support for programs and efforts that seek to equip young people with the skills they need to ensure their lifelong sexual health and well-being.”

“SIECUS also applauds the President’s proposed $4 million increase for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, helping communities implement evidence-informed and innovative strategies to support the sexual health of our nation’s youth.”

“The continued funding for the Division of Adolescent and School Health and request for future Personal Responsibility Education Program funding demonstrates this administration’s commitment to secure the right to quality sexuality education for young people.”

Obama’s decision to slash abstinence-only sex education for public schools follows a number of national studies showing that it was ineffective at preventing teen pregnancies. While nationally the number of teen births has been on the decline, rates had been consistently higher in states that promoted abstinence-only as the primary method of sex education.

Other research backs up the idea that this form of sex education is ineffective. Students who receive comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to become pregnant or get their partner present, research found (via the Washington Post). A separate federal report found that abstinence-only policies actually did nothing to promote sexual abstinence.

Think Progress noted that 26 states required abstinence be stressed as the best method, and these states had some of the highest teen birth rates.

“For example, take the states with the highest and lowest teen pregnancy rates. Mississippi does not require sex education in schools, but when it is taught, abstinence-only education is the state standard. New Mexico, which has the second highest teen birth rate, does not require sex ed and has no requirements on what should be included when it is taught. New Hampshire, on the other hand, requires comprehensive sex education in schools that includes abstinence and information about condoms and contraception.”

The budget move will not eliminate abstinence-only education entirely, Mother Jones pointed out. The federal government still funds the sex education method with about $85 million each year, the report noted. Republicans in Congress have also succeeded at keeping these funds in the federal budget when Obama tried to eliminate it in past years.

But Obama has been able to notch some victories in the fight to eliminate abstinence-only sex education.

“The Obama administration has had some victories,” Mother Jones reported. “In 2010 and 2011, Obama and Congress agreed to eliminate two-thirds of funding for previously existing abstinence programs, and then allocated almost $190 million in new funding to initiatives aimed at preventing unintended teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.”

It remains to be seen whether President Obama’s attempt to slash abstinence-only sex education funding will stick this time as well. The budget deliberation process will begin soon, and Republicans are expected to take efforts to have this funding restored, as they have in the past.

[Picture by Saul Loeb/Getty Images]