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States' Implementation of the Section 510 Abstinence Education Program, FY 1999
Adam Sonfield and Rachel Benson Gold
Family Planning Perspectives
Vol. 33, No. 4 (Jul. - Aug., 2001), pp. 166-171
Published by: Guttmacher Institute
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2673720
Page Count: 6
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Context: As part of its reworking of the nation's welfare system in 1996, Congress enacted a major new abstinence education initiative (Section 510 of Title V of the Social Security Act), projected to spend $87.5 million in federal, state and local funds per year for five years. The new program is designed to emphasize abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage, at any age, rather than premarital abstinence for adolescents, which was typical of earlier efforts. The actual message and impact of the program, however, will depend on how it is implemented. Methods: Program coordinators in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were surveyed concerning implementation of the Section 510 abstinence education program in FY 1999. The questionnaire asked about expenditures and activities performed, about policies established for a variety of specific situations and about how the term "sexual activity" is defined and what specific components of the federal definition of "abstinence education" are emphasized. Results: Forty-five jurisdictions spent a total of $69 million through the Section 510 program in FY 1999. Of this total, $33 million was spent through public entities, $28 million was spent through private entities and $7 million (in 22jurisdictions) was spent through faith-based entities. Almost all jurisdictions reported funding school-related activities, with 38 reporting in-school instruction and presentations. Twenty-eight jurisdictions prohibited organizations from providing information about contraception (aside from failure rates), even at a client's request, while only six jurisdictions prohibited information about sexually transmitted diseases. Few reported having a policy or rendering guidance about providing services addressing sexual abuse, sexual orientation or existing pregnancy and parenthood. Only six respondents said they defined "sexual activity" for purposes of the program, and 16 reported focusing on specific portions of the federal definition of "abstinence education." Conclusions: More than one in 10 Section 510 dollars were spent through faith-based entities. Programs commonly conducted in-school activities, particularly instruction and presentations, not only through public entities, but also through private and faith-based entities. Most jurisdictions prohibited the provision of information about contraception, about providers of contraceptive services or about both topics, even in response to a direct question and when using other sources of funding. Most also left definitions of "abstinence" and "sexual activity" as local decisions, thus not clearly articulating what the program is designed to encourage clients to abstain from.
Family Planning Perspectives © 2001 Guttmacher Institute