What is the Title V Section 510 Abstinence Education Program?

In this context of high rates of teen sexual activity and their serious public health and socioeconomic consequences, interest in abstinence education has increased over the past decade. As a result, in 1998 the federal government provided $50 million annually for five years for block grants to states to support abstinence education programs. States must provide $3 in matching funds for every $4 in federal funds, which results in a total of up to $87.5 million available annually for such programs.

These abstinence education grants are allotted to states through a formula based on the proportion of low-income children in the state relative to the total number of low-income children for all the states. States then decide which programs to fund and at what level. Most states have disbursed their funding to numerous local agencies and organizations. However, a few states, such as Massachusetts, have retained their entire funding allocation for a single statewide initiative, such as a media campaign.

Although abstinence education programs have been around for decades, the new investment raised the profile of programs that teach an unambiguous abstinence message to youth. The main factor that distinguishes the Section 510 abstinence education funding from the previous generation of federally funded abstinence education programs is the "A-H definition" (Title V Section 510 (b)(2)(AH) of the Social Security Act), which specifies that an abstinence education program funded under the block grant must:

1. Have as its exclusive purpose teaching the social, psychological and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity.

2. Teach abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school-age children.

3. Teach that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and other associated health problems.

4. Teach that a mutually faithful, monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of sexual activity.

5. Teach that sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.

6. Teach that bearing children out-of-wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child's parents, and society.

7. Teach young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increases vulnerability to sexual advances.

8. Teach the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity.

For more information, contact:
Cora Rabenberg, Director

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