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Oklahoma Legislature Expands State Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding

The Oklahoma state legislature appropriated $500,000 in state funds to promote abstinence-only-until-marriage for teenagers. The appropriation, attached to Senate Bill 424, specifies that the State Department of Health will expand the Postponing Sexual Involvement (PSI) for Young Teens program by contracting with community-based organizations and local faith-based organizations.1 Senator Tom Adelson (D-Tulsa) explained that this funding appropriation was attached to his “All Kids Act,” a bill which expands eligibility for Oklahoman children without insurance, in order to broaden overall political support for the bill.

Oklahoma state law does not require that schools teach sexuality education, but if a school district chooses to teach sexuality education, the materials must be approved for medical accuracy by the state and the district superintendent. State law does require that sexuality education classes, if offered, must have teaching students about abstinence as one of their primary purposes.

The PSI program used in Oklahoma, adapted from a curriculum developed at Emory University in Georgia, does not include instruction about contraception.2 It is a five lessons program with the goal of convincing teens to remain abstinent from sexual activity.3 A recent study conducted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. found no evidence that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs increased rates of sexual abstinence.

Despite this, lawmakers in Oklahoma still pushed for the expansion of the PSI program. Senator Brian Crain (R-Tulsa), who is responsible for the amendment, expressed his desire to keep the PSI program free of information about contraceptives and birth control because he feared giving teens a mixed message. “Teach abstinence; not promiscuity,” Crain said.4

Although this mixed message argument is frequently used to support a strict abstinence-only-until-marriage approach, the research proves that it is not a valid concern. Rather, a report by researcher Doug Kirby’s commissioned by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that teaching young people about both abstinence and contraceptives can help teens delay sexual intercourse, reduce the frequency of sexual intercourse, reduce the number of partners they have, and increase their use of contraceptives when they become sexually active.

“The Oklahoma legislature’s decision to increase state funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs is incredibly unfortunate for the young people in that state who deserve to be empowered with complete and correct information about sexuality,” explianed William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS.

References

  1. Mick Hinton, “Program promotes teen abstinence,” Tulsa World, 26 August 2007, accessed 27 August 2007, <http://www.tulsaworld.com/common/printerfriendlystory.aspx
    ?articleID=070826_1_A19_spanc00037
    >.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Postponing Sexual Involvement (Atlanta, GA: Emory/Grady Teen Services Program, 2003).
  4. Hinton.

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