States Say ‘No Thank You’ To Millions in Ab-Only Funds

Earlier this week, the Associated
Press’ Kevin Freking covered
the astonishingly high number of states
that have withdrawn from the federal government’s Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage
funding scheme. Freking reported that just 28 states are still participating
in the federal funding, meaning that 23 (22 states and the District
of Columbia) are out.

The Administration of Children
and Families (ACF), which is currently overseeing the collapse of this
hallmark initiative of the Gingrich Congress, says that the following states are
participating for Fiscal Year 2008: AL, AZ, AR, FL, GA, HI, IL, IN,
TX, UT, and WV. ACF has also indicated that it is aware that Arizona
and Iowa will not be participating after the end of the current fiscal

Thus, at this moment even according to ACF’s rosy, "by-the-letter"
optimism, half the states have sent the message that they will not be
participating by October of this year.

Freking’s inquiry was sparked by SIECUS’ own research — to be released in our annual SIECUS State Profiles publication
— which shows that an additional
two states, at a minimum, will also reject abstinence-only funding. That brings the number of states opting out to 27. All told,
our calculations are showing that nearly $24 million will be turned down
by states next year.

As recently as September
of 2005, California stood alone in rejecting ab-only funds,
until Maine joined in. In those early days, most people thought
it impossible that we would end up with more than half the states rebuffing
the federal program and its promise of easy money. But, as Freking reports, participation has dropped 40% in just two years. The strong and clear message
coming from the states is that this is, at best, a floundering program
growing weaker by the minute.

States Opt Out for Both Substantive and Administrative Reasons

The challenge in the present
moment, however, is that the reasons for reaching this critical mass
of states are complex and diverse. Some are outright rejections;
states telling Washington they don’t want money for junk programs when they desperately need funds for effective programs, including comprehensive
sex education. Others are not participating for administrative
reasons. The program has been hobbling along
on short term extensions from Congress that make budgeting and implementation
at the state level difficult. Others have submitted comprehensive
applications that are deliberately non-compliant with the strict definitions
of what must be taught such that these applications also send a clear
message of what states want and need.

Congress Considers Yet Another Extension

Congress is currently mulling
an extension of the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program that
may prolong the program’s life for a year or longer. This would be the longest extension granted
by Congress since the original authorization of the program expired
in 2002. That seems an odd parting gift for the 111th
Congress to give a program in collapse. Further, because the longer extension creates fewer
administrative hurdles to using the money, a few states not
participating for these reasons are likely to again accept the funds.

This Congress still has time to remedy its record on sex education by abolishing the program in one fell
swoop. But if Congress feels the need to extend it (and they
do because it seems inextricably linked to another priority piece of
legislation), it should do so for a very short period of time and give
a new Congress and a new President an opportunity for a fresh look.

States Lead the Way

are leading the way. They’re already making the paradigm shift: they’re embracing a more comprehensive approach to sex education.
In fact, our research shows that for the first time since
1998, there are a handful of states that are totally free of any federal
abstinence-only-until-marriage funding.
Coupled with the repudiation
of the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program from coast to
coast, we have more than just a trend on our hands — we have a virtual

It is much too early
to celebrate. It took a quarter of a century for the abstinence-only-until-marriage
industry to reach its zenith and it will not disappear overnight.
But we are making enormous progress.

And there is one more new trend
that should lend substance to my optimism: the abstinence-only-until-marriage
industry itself seems to have tossed in the towel on defending its own
programs. The lobbying arm of the industry, the National Abstinence
Education Association, now rarely speaks of the benefits of abstinence-only-until-marriage
programs at all, focusing instead on demonizing the majority of Americans
who support a more comprehensive approach to sex education as condom
pushers and purveyors of promiscuity. That is the exact type of
dishonest, fear-based, culture war blather that the nation has seen
too much of since the ascendancy of the religious right some three decades
ago. It’s tired and a bit pathetic.

Fortunately, it is also confirmation
that we are on the right track.

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  • invalid-0


    Although I rarely agree with any of your opinions, this post is a bit more fair than i’m used to. There are clear ideological differences in the first few states that rejected Title V, however, I think this current trend of states dropping out has more to do with the fact that the program is administratively a nightmare for coordinators, due to the uncertainty of its future. That being said, I don’t think we would see as much drop-out due to opposing ideologies had there not been this problem.

    Secondly, as a supporter of abstinence-until-marriage (by the way, I find it offensive that critics label these programs abstinence-only-until-marriage, that is a political, incorrect label), I have personally witnessed campaigns by SIECUS to publicly bash abstinence education. One such campaign occurred about a year and a half ago, when SIECUS was giving workshops in communities with Shelby Knox. I attended the event, and it was all about the dangers of fear-based abstinence education. There was little to say about the benefits of comprehensive sex ed.

    just find it amazing that while you and SIECUS cry “foul” at campaigns like the NAEA’s Parents for Truth, you engage in the same smear-based rhetoric.

  • william-smith

    Of the total number of states no longer participating, only a handful are out for the administrative reasons that you speculate may be the rationale.  Suggesting otherwise is yet more evidence of the desperate grasping at straws that marks attempts to save the abstinence-only-until-marriage industry.  The vast majority are out, publicly, for more principled reasons, namely that the programs do not work and young people deserve the entire gamut of information.  Thus, there is a clear and public trend that this program is crumbling not because of the short term extensions — themselves an indication that the Congress has its own problems with the program — but because Governors have had enough of the nonsense.

  • invalid-0

    Is it worth it to ask our governor to not accept Title V?

  • william-smith

    Governors — even  the most socially conservative in the most conservative states — need to hear from their constituents on this.  You may find the following website useful which also has a take action button.  You might also view our SIECUS State Profiles on our website to gain a greater knowledge of the state of ab-only in your own state and to determine which friendly organizations may be mobilized on this issue in your state.  If all else fails, feel free to be in direct touch with SIECUS’ Public Policy Office in Washington, DC.

  • invalid-0


    Let’s examine the facts here. Before June, 13 States had opted out of Title V for “principled” reasons. Now, about 22, soon to be about 24, are opting out. Although we can’t say for certain what every State’s number one motivation is, I think your view that only a handful are doing so for administrative reasons is a somewhat biased opinion.

    In the last year, more evidence has come out to support abstinence education, including evaluations of successful programs in Virginia and South Carolina. There will be more to come as time goes on; the major problem with Title V is not abstinence education per se, but a lack of a coordinated effort by politicians and bureacrats in running the program.

    Government-run programs like CBAE and OPA’s Abstinence education demonstration grants have been run successfully, since 1981 and 2000, respectfully. These grants have been a major success, in part, due to a coordinated government-led effort.

    Politicians are the reason why these states can’t get what they need; it’s not the programs, as you would suggest.

  • william-smith

    I’ll encourage you to read our research to be released in July that is based on direct conversations with those in-the-know in the states about why they have withdrawn from the program.  My comments are based on this research, not mere speculation.


    Additionally, after more than 25 years and $1.5 billion and you have two highly questionable studies to tout? 


    Did you know that the Virginia study looked at 7th graders, few of whom would transition to sex regardless of the intervention?  Did you know that the control group received basically nothing even approaching real sex education but merely a few videos?  Finally, did you know this same program tells students that they can contract HIV from skin to skin contact?  This particular program was so poor that it cannot even be purchased anymore and is out of print.  I ‘d hardly tout this as a basis for an increased investment in an approach that every major public health entity in this country and around the world has failed to support.


    For the SC study, I assume you refer to another study by Dr. Weed that to this day has not been published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal, but only presented at a conference hosted by the Bush Administration to prop up this failed approach.  This study itself has far too many holes to explain here but I will refer you to our website for additional information (


    The reason the abstinence-only-until-marriage industry is in crisis is because the research is clearly showing the programs do not work and there is an increasing realization that there are profound ethical and moral issues with denying young people the information they need to make good, responsible decisions. 


    So, please stop blaming politicians for failing to continue to write blank checks.  They have financed this billion-dollar plus boondoggle for more than a quarter century.