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Health Agencies Update
May 15, 2002

Resistance to Abstinence Only

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JAMA. 2002;287(19):2494. doi:10.1001/jama.287.19.2494-JHA20005-4-1

The $50 million-per-year US effort at abstinence-only sex education is having a difficult time establishing itself in many school districts, says an April report by the Department of Health and Human Services. "Sometimes schools resist because of competing priorities; at other times, resistance stems from debate about health and sex education policies," it says.

Passed as part of a 1996 welfare reform law, the effort provides block grants to states on the condition that resulting sex education programs do not include information about birth control methods except to highlight their limitations. The report concludes that the grant program has dramatically increased the proportion of school districts teaching abstinence-only sex education. In 1988, only 2% of districts relied solely on abstinence programs. That figure rose to 23% by 1999.

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