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STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Ohio Governor's Proposed Budget Would Eliminate Abstinence-Only Education Programs

STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Ohio Governor's Proposed Budget Would Eliminate Abstinence-Only Education Programs
[Mar 26, 2007]

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's (D) proposed $53 billion budget would eliminate the state's federally funded abstinence-only sex education programs, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (Craig, Cincinnati Enquirer, 3/23). Strickland's administration has said it will not reapply for Title V abstinence education funds when the current $1.6 million grant expires on Sept. 30, the Dayton Daily News reports (Bischoff, Dayton Daily News, 3/22). The Title V abstinence education grant program, administered by HHS' Administration for Children and Families, distributes funds based on a formula favoring states with more low-income children. To receive Title V funds, states must adhere to certain requirements, including barring teachers from discussing contraception and requiring them to say that sex within marriage is "the expected standard of sexual activity." California, Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin also have rejected Title V funds (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 3/6). Ohio has spent about $500,000 per year in state funds on abstinence-only education programs and implemented programs through the Governor's Office on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. According to the Enquirer, Strickland's proposed budget would remove $1 million in state funding over two years for Ohio's abstinence-only education programs (Cincinnati Enquirer, 3/23). Strickland said, "I don't believe abstinence-only education programs work in the long run," adding, "There is some evidence that they may delay the onset of sexual activity, but over the long term, there's not data there that show they prevent, in a statistical sense, sexual activity outside of marriage." According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, Ohio-based abstinence groups have received $23.7 million in federal funds over the past three years.

State Rep. Jay Hottinger (R) said Strickland is likely to face "a lot of legislative opposition" to the proposal. Tai Hethcock, director of the Abstinence Resource Centre in Dayton, Ohio, said a 1999 state law that requires public school health classes to say abstinence is the only guaranteed way to prevent pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and HIV has led to Ohio becoming a leader nationwide in abstinence education. However, a 2005 report by Case Western Reserve University found that Ohio's abstinence-only programs gave false information about contraceptives and abortion and represented religious views as fact reports (AP/Dayton Daily News, 3/22). Earl Pike, executive director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, said Strickland's proposal is a "significant and important shift in policy," adding, "The only approach that's going to work in the long run is a comprehensive approach that stresses abstinence but also includes key information on contraceptives and safer sex" (Dayton Daily News, 3/22).