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Citizens Successfully Pressure Feds to Release Abstinence Study
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finally released the full results of a taxpayer-funded study on parent and teenage attitudes about sex and abstinence after citizen requests overwhelmed the HHS website on August 20th. The full report was released 18 months after its completion in February 2009, but only after CitizenLink and other pro-family organizations alerted their constituents that the Obama administration was stonewalling its release.

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In prior months, HHS repeatedly refused Freedom of Information Act requests from researcher and University of Northern Colorado assistant professor Lisa Rue, citing exemption (b) (5), which permits withholding information relevant to government decisions yet to be finalized. Rue was surprised by the refusals since the executive level report was presented at two public conferences in 2009 and posted online. She began to ask whether the detailed findings were being "suppressed" in an effort to "repress American values in an effort to exert control over sex education" policy and practice in the U.S.

Last year the Obama administration eliminated all federal abstinence education funding in favor of "comprehensive sex education" that emphasizes contraception and "safe sex" considerations for gay-identified youth. An amendment to the health care bill restored $50 million to abstinence funding, but also added an additional $75 million funding stream for "comprehensive" sex ed.

Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Foundation, questioned the motives of the Obama administration in withholding a report that demonstrates public opposition to his sex education policies. That is because the nationally representative sample of 1,000 adolescents and their parents clearly shows that parents and teens generally oppose pre-marital sex. In fact, a full 70% of parents agreed it was against their values for their children to have intercourse before marriage and that only married persons should engage in sex. Adolescents generally agreed, though they held more permissive attitudes about their own sexual behavior than their parents did.

The study also found that adolescents are more influenced by parents and peers regarding sex and abstinence than they are by classes or programs. Significantly, 68% of kids identified a family member as their preferred source of information about sexual issues while only 8.7% said a teacher was their preferred information source. Around 17% of kids said they would rather ask friends for information about sex.

The release of the detailed report on August 23rd came just prior to an August 30th federal deadline for governors to apply for Title V abstinence education funds. Whether the report influenced the decisions of state governors is not known, but 30 governors elected to apply for abstinence funds for FY2011, up from 28 in 2009. The increase occurred despite the requirement that states match $3 for every $4 of abstinence funding; in contrast, the "comprehensive" funding grants from HHS require no matching state funds. According to a report from the National Abstinence Education Association, five states that opted for abstinence funding in 2009 did not reapply this year, but eight new states applied for fiscal year 2011 funding. (onenewsnow.com, 8-19-10, citizenlink.com, 8-24-10, 9-16-10)

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