Ariz. Gov: Abstinence-Only a Bust

Tucson, Ariz. – Saying that the abstinence-only sex education program in her state hasn’t worked, Arizona Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano turned down $1 million in federal funding for the program on Jan. 28.

“While we all support abstinence-only and don't believe, in particular, that teenagers should be engaged in sexual relationships of that sort, the fact of the matter is that some do,” Napolitano said in a letter to the feds explaining her decision. “They need to have complete information for their own health.”

In addition, Napolitano said she rejected the money because the federal government requires states to match funds. Arizona is facing a $1 billion budget deficit this fiscal year.

Arizona is now the 16th state to refuse the money, a number which has increased since the release of a congressional study about abstinence-only education programs last April.

The study followed 2000 students from elementary to high school. Half had access to family life services and the other half to abstinence-only education. The study found that only half of the teens in both groups had abstained from sex by age 17. Of the half that were sexually active, less than a quarter had used a condom. Overall, the study concluded that students who received abstinence-only education were no more likely to abstain from sex than students who had received education about contraceptives and safer sex.

The federal government has funded abstinence-only education for more than 25 years, spending over $1.5 billion in total. Several groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized this spending, on the grounds that these programs are often based on religious views of sexuality and hostile towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teenagers.

Under Arizona law, sexual education programs in public schools are required to teach abstinence, but not exclusively. Decisions about such programs are typically left to individual school districts, some of which choose to include information about contraceptives. Also, some religious organizations like Catholic Charities have with the Department of Health Services to teach abstinence in the classroom.

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