Dan Boren continues to back abstinence education, Obama administration pegs it “unauthorized”

U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, a Muskogee Democrat, is allied with critics of a new Funding Opportunity Announcement from the U.S. Department of Human Services. 

Not that Boren, Oklahoma’s only congressional Democrat, is against federal grants. However, he has opposed the Obama Administration’s decision to leave abstinence education out of programs funded through federal grants. 

Boren has been a consistent supporter of abstinence education. He was part of a bipartisan group of signatories, this summer, on a letter advocating the at least half of all federal sex education funds go to such programs. 

In his own letter on the issue, Boren said, “Abstinence education has been an important issue for me during my service in Congress. The risk-avoidance approach of abstinence education appropriately prepares youth to make informed decisions.”

Mary Francis Boyle, in a story posted online Monday (September 12) for National Catholic Register reports on new HHS guidelines in which groups are asked to commit “to not use funds for unauthorized activities, including, but not limited to, an abstinence-education program.”

Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association decried the new agency policy, commenting, “Preventing youth from receiving sexual-abstinence skills is very troubling and completely ignores the body of research that now links teen sex to future divorce in marriage.

Critics of abstinence education point to a 2007 study from Mathematica Policy Research as a challenge to the effectiveness of such programs. Some have even said the analysis ended debate about the abstinence approach.

However, a 2010 Heritage Foundation survey of abstinence education reported statistically significant positive results (delayed sexual initiative, reduced levels of early sexual activity) in 17 of 22 scientific studies.
While academic debate continues, for now the abstinence programs are on the outs with federal government policy. 

HSS listings of goals and allowable activities under the Health Marriage Initiative grant program make no mention of pre-marital counseling for abstinence as a goal or allowable activity.