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Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania Re-Applies for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding

On September 2, the state of Pennsylvania re-applied for Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funds after several years of remaining out of the program. One of the earliest states to reject the funds, Pennsylvania opted back in 2006. However, that application was submitted late and the funds were never spent but returned in full to the federal government. Pennsylvania has not spent any Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding since 2002.

Advocates for comprehensive sexuality education strongly opposed the Governor’s decision to re-apply, “Taking the money is essentially an endorsement of a bad, ineffective program,” said Joe Fay, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. “There are better ways to spend that money,” Fay concluded. [i]

In protest to the decision, ACT UP Philly (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), an AIDS prevention and education activist group, gathered individuals in front of the Governor’s Southeast office. The group said, “Philadelphia youth will be put at increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies.” [ii] The 50 protesters asked Joseph Certaine, Director of Governor Rendell’s Southeast office about the decision. He replied, “Rendell and myself know that abstinence only education doesn’t work. But we need all the money we can get.” [iii]

Three papers across the state wrote strong editorials opposing the Governor’s decision: the Philadelphia Daily News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. [iv] The last paper summed up the Governor’s decision this way: “A decision by the state Health Department to seek federal funds for abstinence-only sex education programs flies in the face of past practice, state policy, a wise trend in the opposite direction and solid research. It’s not a good idea.” [v]

With such strong support against accepting the funding, the Governor’s decision is not fully understood. And, another representative of Rendell’s administration, Claudine Battisti, the director of communications for Pennsylvania’s Department of Health (DOH), only added to this confusion saying, “Obviously, the DOH knows that the best approach is comprehensive sex education.” [vi]

“Money on the books is no excuse for accepting harmful Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funds —24 other states have decided no longer to participate in the program without any political fallout,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). “It’s a bad move for Rendell and a huge step backward in helping the state’s families and young people.”

Click here to urge Governor Rendell to stay out of the harmful Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program.
[i] Jenice Armstrong, “Teenage Pregnancy,” Philadelphia Daily News, 3 September 2008, accessed 15 September 2008,
[ii] Isaiah Thompson, “Rendell Applies for Abstinence-Only Money From Feds,” Philadelphia City Paper, 28 August 2008, accessed 3 September 2008, <>.
[iii] Personal correspondence, Sam Sitrin, with quote from Joseph Certaine during ACT UP’s demonstration, 27 August 2008.
[iv] “Abstinence-Only? Abstain Please!,” Philadelphia Daily News, 22 August 2008, accessed 15 September 2008,
<;!category=opinion;&randomOrd=082208052959>; “Abstinence-Only Sex Ed: An abrupt change,” Philadelphia Inquirer, (1 September 2008), accessed 15 September 2008, <>; “Loose behavior: The state is wrong on abstinence-only funds,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2 September 2008, accessed 15 September 2008.
[v] “Loose behavior: The state is wrong on abstinence-only funds.”
[vi] Isaiah Thompson, “Rendell applies for abstinence-only money from feds,” Philadelphia City Paper, 28 August 2008, accessed 3 September 2008, <>.