On July 12, 2004, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced the distribution of $31 million in implementation grants to 50 organizations as part of the Special Projects of Regional and National Significance-Community Based Abstinence Education (SPRANS-CBAE) program. These grants fund both public and private organizations to implement abstinence-only-until-marriage programs over a three-year period beginning in Fiscal Year 2004.
Under the terms of these awards, all grantees must focus on adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 and strictly follow all eight points of the federal government's definition of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.1 This definition has been interpreted to mean that condoms and other forms of contraception can be discussed only in the context of failure rates.
Of the 50 grantees, three are county departments of health, one is a school district, and 16 are faith-based organizations (including five crisis pregnancy centers). For example, Carenet Pregnancy Services of Dupage, Illinois received almost $300,000. Its website states that "Carenet Pregnancy Services of Dupage is an evangelistic organization that exists to help women experiencing unplanned or unwanted pregnancies choose life for their unborn babies."2 Another crisis pregnancy center, the Alpha Center in South Dakota, also received almost $300,000. The Alpha Center was founded and is run by Leslee Unruh, the founder and president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, one of the prominent national voices in the abstinence-only-until-marriage movement.
Twenty of the SPRANS-CBAE grantees have received prior federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage work. These organizations include the Best Friends Foundation in the District of Columbia; Choosing the Best in Georgia; New Genesis Inc. in Michigan; Why kNOw Abstinence Education Inc. in Tennessee; and Teen-Aid Inc. in Washington State.
On the Teen-Aid website, an article by Dr. Matthew Porter entitled "Teens Can't Afford to Gamble at the STD Roulette Wheel," compares teen sexual activity to terrorism. He states, "It now appears that teen sex, regardless of condom use, is about as safe as Airline Al-Qaida."3 In the same piece, sexual abuse seems to be blamed on the abuse survivor: "Sadly, a teen's involvement in premarital sexual activity increases her risk of subsequent divorce by 50%, leads to decreased educational attainment and higher rates of sexual abuse."4
Teen-Aid produces several abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula. In one of these curricula, using condoms is compared to playing Russian roulette. In another, students write an essay entitled "If Wombs Had Windows," in which they are instructed to speculate on how individuals and society might behave differently if, "we could see the unborn child developing in the womb."
These newest SPRANS-CBAE grantees are located in 25 states, with six grantees in Texas which now has the highest number of funded organizations in any one state. Including these new grants, the state of Texas and organizations in Texas now receive over $11 million in abstinence-only-until-marriage funding through all federal funding streams. On its website, one Texan organization receiving SPRANS-CBAE funds, asks, "Did you know that there are more virgins than non-virgins in high school today? No, well over half of graduating high school students are virgins."5 In fact according to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, in 2003, 62% of high school seniors nationwide reported having engaged in sexual intercourse. In Texas, 52% of high school students report having had sexual intercourse (not including the city of Dallas which reports separately). In the city of Dallas, 59% of high school students report having had sexual intercourse.6
"Once again, this newest list of grantees underscores that abstinence-only-until-marriage is much more about politics and ideology than about public health," said Bill Smith, SIECUS' director of public policy. "These funds will continue to bolster the deceptive practices of crisis pregnancy centers and will certainly make conservative voters happy, but at the unacceptably high cost of undermining the health of our young people," Smith continued.
The SPRANS-CBAE program began in Fiscal Year 2001 and has already distributed over $140 million in funding to over 200 abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Generally, this program receives little, if any, oversight from the federal government and programs do not have to be medically or factually accurate.
- Please see the federal definition of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
- Carenet Pregnancy Service of Dupage. Accessed online on August 5, 2004.
- M. Porter, "Teens Can't Afford to Gamble at the STD Roulette Wheel," Waco Tribune-Herald, May 1, 2002. Available online.
- McLennan Co. Collaborative Abstinence Project. Accessed online on August 5, 2004.
- J. Grunbaum et al. "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance - United States, 2003," Surveillance Summaries, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 53, no.SS-2, May 21, 2004, pp. 1-95. Accessed online on August 5, 2004.