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New SIECUS State Profiles Report Released on Tax Day to Highlight Continued Waste of Taxpayer Dollars on Failed Programs

April 15, 2009

Washington, DC – On the day when Americans are reminded that we are all taxpayers, SIECUS is releasing the sixth edition of the SIECUS State Profiles: A Portrait of Sexuality Education and Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in the States. The publication is the most comprehensive document of its kind, detailing sexuality education and abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in states and communities across the country during Fiscal Year 2008. It contains information on each state’s laws, recently proposed legislation, and young people’s sexual behavior. The profiles also detail the amount of money states and state-based entities receive for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and how the funds are used.

Beginning in 1981 under the Reagan Administration, the federal government has consistently squandered taxpayer money on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs despite a lack of research proving that they are effective. Funding for these unproven programs has grown exponentially since 1996. Between 1996 and federal Fiscal Year 2008, Congress funneled over $1.5 billion dollars (through both federal and state matching funds) to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. For Fiscal Year 2008, the federal government allocated $176 million through three separate funding streams for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. For Fiscal Year 2009, the total amount allocated was just over $160 million.

This money supports over 350 programs across the country many of which rely on messages of fear and shame and spread inaccurate information about STDs and contraception. The disproportionate impact of these dollars also continues to be born by the South where nearly half of all federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding is now concentrated.  More than $82 million in failed abstinence-only-until-marriage dollars are funneled into 16 southern states.  Perhaps most disturbing is that our research finds that nearly 50 hospitals and local health departments are taking federal dollars to promote abstinence-only-until-marriage programs despite the fact that these programs have been shown to be ineffective and have been rebuked by every major public health entity in this country.

However, the past year has been one of exciting progress as President Obama recently signed into law the first-ever cut to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in our nation’s history. More importantly, our new President is a vocal supporter of moving our nation’s agenda away from failed and ideological initiatives such as abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and toward more evidence-based interventions. The President has called for age-appropriate and medically accurate comprehensive sex education for all school-aged children and was a co-sponsor of the federal comprehensive sex education bill, the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act, when he served in the United States Senate. 
“There is growing evidence and recognition across the country that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs don’t work. Study after study has shown that these programs are based on fear and misinformation and do nothing to teach young people the information they need to be healthy and responsible adults. Pouring millions of dollars into ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs each year is a failed experiment at the taxpayer’s expense that we can no longer afford,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS.
Also encouraging, we are seeing leadership on this issue not just coming from the White House but also from around the country. Cities like Pittsburgh are jettisoning the failed policy of abstinence-only-until-marriage and nearly half of the states are leading the way toward better sex education by declining the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funds for which they are eligible. This has left nearly $23 million in unspent funds sitting in the Treasury as states await a policy shift and funds for evidence-based programming. 
In fact, our research this year shows that the number of states completely free of any federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding continues to grow, is geographically diverse, and now stands at seven:  Delaware, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wyoming. 
“Our report shows clear evidence that a paradigm shift is underway as the evidence continues to mount against abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and in favor of a more comprehensive approach to sex education. More and more states are beginning to send a message that they are unwilling to continue to support programs that place ideology over the health and futures of our nation’s young people,” concluded Smith.  “The time has come for Congress to listen to what states need and end the decade-long and failed expansion of abstinence-only-until-marriage programming.”

The full State Profiles are available here.

If you have questions, or would like to receive the report for a specific state, please contact Patrick Malone at or (212)819-9770 ext. 316.