June 23, 2015 — A fiscal 2016 budget proposed by a House subcommittee "would render devastating cuts to [the Title X Family Planning] program, along with other health care services currently reaching 4.6 million people," while also "eliminat[ing] nearly all federal funding for teen pregnancy prevention and sex education programs," columnist Stephanie Castillo writes in a Medical Daily opinion piece.
Castillo discusses the funding cuts with Leslie Kantor, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, who noted that "funding for the teen pregnancy initiative would go from $105 million to $10 million -- 'only about as much money to keep the office open and keep the staff in place.'" Kantor explains that the remaining funding would be redirected "to something called 'sexual risk avoidance,' which is just another way to say abstinence-only sex ed."
According to Kantor, "the teen pregnancy initiative was 'a very important step forward for pregnancy prevention and sex ed in the country'" because it marked "the first time federal resources had been devoted to sex ed other than abstinence-only programs," Castillo writes. Kantor said the program allocated "funding for organizations to replicate programs that have been found to work, programs that have been proven in rigorous studies that delay sex until older or use contraception when they do."
By contrast, Castillo notes that abstinence-only sexuality education programs diverge from CDC recommendations on "effective sex ed programs" and "provide misinformation and purposefully withhold medically-accurate information necessary for young men and women to make healthy, informed choices when it comes to sex," a fact that "more people are realizing." She cites a recent California case that found abstinence-only sexuality education fell short of the state's comprehensive sexuality education standards, as well as research supporting students' interest in and benefits from comprehensive sexuality education.
Further, Castillo touches on the media's misinformed portrayal of sex, which either "confuse[s] young women" or "shames them" by suggesting that "sex before marriage automatically makes women dirty and worthless" and "devalu[ing] rape victims." In addition, she cites a 2012 CDC report that found "states with higher rates of unintended pregnancies and STIs were covering a limited amount of topics" in their sexuality education courses "compared to states with lower rates." Kantor noted, "You can't say this is causal ... but you can say 'look, there's an association between states not teaching them very much about sex.'"
Castillo continues, "According to Kantor, Title X is one of the most successful programs in government history" and "extremely cost-effective," as "every dollar funded into family planning is estimated to save consumers about seven dollars." Castillo notes that such cuts -- while unlikely to be included in the Senate proposal -- would undermine not only women's "affordable access to birth control and tests ... but [contribute to a] lack of knowledge in general" (Castillo, Medical Daily, 6/21).