Roundup: Pennsylvania Threatens Cuts to Successful Sexual Health Program for Students


Pennsylvania Department of Health Threatens to Significantly Cut Funding of Successful High School Health Resource Centers …
This Philadelphia Inquirer reports today on threats to cut funding of a
unique successful sexual health program in Philidelphia high schools
that has helped reduce teen pregnancies in the city by over 30% in the
past decade:

Between 1995 and 2005, the number of teen girls living in the city ages
15 to 17 who became pregnant dropped by a third – from about 3,000 in
1995 to 2,000 in 2005.

Contributing to this success has been a broad range of teen pregnancy
prevention efforts educating teens about reproductive health and family
planning options, so they can make informed choices.

Philadelphia’s is the only school district in the commonwealth with a
school-based information and condom access program. Located in 13 high
schools, these Health Resource Centers (HRCs) provide a confidential
place where teens can receive counseling and education about
abstinence, health, sexuality and contraceptive options.

While the parents of each student are given the opportunity to
"opt-out" their child from receiving condoms, 99 percent of parents
choose not to do so. During the last school year, 6,700 students made
32,000 visits to Health Resource Centers.

While
the programs are both popular and successful the state’s legislature
and Gov. Ed Rendell are pushing to cut funding of the program that
would force at least two of the Health Resource Centers to close
immediately and in it’s place seek federal funds for abstinece-only
education:

The state Department of Health has decided to reduce funding by
$200,000, a 40 percent cut that will result in the closure of at least
two HRCs and the scaling back of related teen pregnancy prevention
programs. At the same time, the administration is applying for federal
funds to support abstinence-only sex education programs.

Palin’s Conflicting Statements on Contraception and Sex Education … Gov. Sarah Palin has said many times that she supports abstinence-only education in America’s schools. Today opinion columns in both the Salt Lake Tribune and the Daily Iowan cheer Palin’s support of her daughter’s choice to have a baby at 17 years old while decrying her support for abstinence-only education policies that have been blamed for rising teen pregnancy rates.  But the LA Times has found a comment made by Palin during her 2006 campaign for governor in Alaska that indicates she may privately disagree with the party line on sex education:

In a widely quoted 2006 survey she answered during her gubernatorial
campaign, Palin said she supported abstinence-until-marriage programs.
But weeks later, she proclaimed herself "pro-contraception" and said
condoms ought to be discussed in schools alongside abstinence.

"I’m pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at
home should hear about it in other avenues," she said during a debate
in Juneau.

Palin’s statements date to her 2006 gubernatorial run. In July of that
year, she completed a candidate questionnaire that asked, would she
support funding for abstinence-until-marriage programs instead of
"explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics and the
distribution of contraceptives in schools?"

Palin wrote, "Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support."

But in August of that year, Palin was asked during a KTOO radio debate
if "explicit" programs include those that discuss condoms. Palin said
no and called discussions of condoms "relatively benign."

"Explicit means explicit," she said. "No, I’m pro-contraception, and I
think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in
other avenues. So I am not anti-contraception. But, yeah, abstinence is
another alternative that should be discussed with kids. I don’t have a
problem with that. That doesn’t scare me, so it’s something I would
support also."

Do these statements reveal an inner conflict on these issues for Palin?  She seems to want to tow the party line on abstinence-only education curriculum that refuses to teach students about contraception but then continues to express her support for dicussing the use of condoms with students and in fact said that she is "pro-contraception" at least twice during the 2006 campaign.  Hopefully Palin’s views on the important issues of sex education and contraception will be further explored and defined before Americans are asked to vote to put her in the White House in November.

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