Once again, Texas leads the nation in federal funding for abstinence-only programs that don’t teach young people medically accurate information about responsible pregnancy and disease prevention. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced how much each state will receive in abstinence-only funding under the recently passed Affordable Care Act. Programs in Texas — the state that got more federal ab-only funding than any other during the Bush administration — will get $5.4 million of the $33 million in new such funding. New York was a distant second at just less than $3 million. Florida programs got the third-highest total with $2.6 million. No other state had more than $2 million in ab-only funding.
The obvious question: why in the world does Texas get so much abstinence-only funding when it has one of the highest teen birthrates in the nation (and the highest rate of multiple births to teens)?
Promoting ignorance among young people is a terrible strategy when it comes to educating young people about sexuality and health. Yet a Texas Freedom Network Education Fund study last year showed that 9 in 10 Texas public school districts teach abstinence-only or nothing at all when it comes to sex education.
The TFN Education Fund report, authored by two Texas State University health education professors, also found that abstinence-only programs are riddled with factual inaccuracies, including wild exaggerations about the alleged ineffectiveness of condoms and other forms of contraception. They also often employ scare tactics and absurd gender stereotypes. But the money continues to flow into such programs despite the fact that the teen birthrate in Texas has been rising.
On the other hand, there is some good news. The U.S. Department Health and Human Services also announced that evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs — which are NOT abstinence-only — in Texas will receive more than $7.4 million in federal grants. (Four states are getting more such funding: California, New York, Florida and Illinois.) Congratulations to Susan Tortolero and her team at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, which earned $3 million in federal funding for its pregnancy prevention/sex education work.
Other good news: some public school districts are moving away from failed abstinence-only programs. Two recent victories for common sense: the San Marcos and Dripping Springs Independent School Districts near Austin have decided to teach students evidence-based, medically accurate information about contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Arlington and Navasota ISDs will also receive federal grants of nearly $1 million each for more comprehensive teen pregnancy prevention/sex education programs.
The Texas Freedom Network is helping advocates promote responsible sex education in their local communities. Learn more here.