Teaching Fear

D. Government Funding

Due in large part to the conservative policies of the Reagan Administration, the developers of Sex Respect, Facing Reality, the Teen Aid programs and several other abstinence-only programs were aided by large federal grants. During the Reagan years, the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs in the Department of Health and Human Services administered hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funds to the developers of abstinence-only programs. The funds were authorized by the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) and represented unprecedented government support for what many regarded as the development of religious materials.

The Committee on the Status of Women was aided in its development of Sex Respect by a number of grants. Among them, an initial grant of $391,000 was awarded in 1985, designated as support for development of a pilot project for middle school students in Illinois and five other midwestern states. That same year the committee obtained a five-year grant to study the effectiveness of Sex Respect. In 1990, the Committee was awarded a three-year grant of over $350,000 to develop Facing Reality. In addition, in 1988, the U.S. Department of Education replaced a Red Cross video with a Sex Respect video on its list of recommended HIV/AIDS education resources, potentially increasing the Committee's sales of the video.

The Committee on the Status of Women was also the recipient of major funding from the State of Illinois, though not without surrounding controversy. The Committee has been accused of using its political muscle to make financial gains. According to the Chicago Reporter, the Committee lobbied the governor of Illinois to avoid state scrutiny of its program and to get funding from the governor-appointed program "Parents Too Soon." Illinois state representative Penny Pullen (R-Park Ridge), a past Committee Vice President and current board member, cosponsored legislation in 1989 that would require abstinence to be part of a school's sex education curriculum. After the law's enactment, Sex Respect received at least 13 state contracts worth more than $700,000. Pullen received over $8,000 in campaign contributions from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum between 1982-1991.

The state and federal money received by the Committee was integral to the existence of Sex Respect. A writer for the Conservative Digest said:

...the Adolescent Family Life Act was written expressly for the purpose of diverting [federal] money that would otherwise go to Planned Parenthood into groups with traditional values. That noble purpose has certainly been fulfilled here. And, if it hadn't been for the seed money provided by the government, Sex Respect might still be just an idea sitting in a graduate student's thesis.

The writer also called Sex Respect "a genuine success story for conservatives, for the American people, and for the Reagan Administration."

The Teen Aid programs were also developed with the assistance of federal funding under the Adolescent Family Life Act, and Teen Aid, Inc. has donated profits from sales of its materials to a Spokane, Washington anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center for pregnant teens.

The government funding of abstinence-only programs was controversial almost from the beginning. It was challenged in court in a case brought in 1983. A federal district court ruled that the funding of abstinence-only programs constituted support for religious activity and was unconstitutional on its face. That decision was overturned by the Supreme Court, but even that Court reluctantly admitted that the program administering AFLA funds had provided support for religious activity. The case was sent back to the lower court for trial. As the lawyers representing plaintiffs in the case conducted depositions in preparation for trial, they discovered more evidence of religious activity in the development and promotion of federally funded abstinence-only programs. Often, when presented with such evidence, the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs would defund the program in question. The case was settled in 1993 and among the terms of the settlement were requirements that programs funded by OAPP must be medically accurate and must contain no religious references.

The Clinton budget proposal now pending before Congress would eliminate funding for Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs. The administration chose instead to channel that funding into an Office of Adolescent Health, which would cover not only sexuality programs, but other teen health concerns such as drug use and smoking. It is likely that this move will be the subject of intense debate in the Congress, with proponents of federal funding for abstinence-only programs enlisting their friends in the House and Senate to fight for restored funding.

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