By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
RICHMOND, Nov. 12 -- Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has cut off state funding for abstinence-only sex education programs, citing recent studies finding that teenagers should also be taught about birth control and condoms to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Kaine (D) submitted plans last month to close a budget shortfall in part by eliminating a $275,000 matching grant for a federal program that provided funds for 14 nonprofit groups that taught abstinence only.
Delacey Skinner, Kaine's communications director, said the governor believes that effective sex education programs must include information about contraceptives as well as abstinence.
"The governor supports abstinence-based education, but the governor wants to see us funding programs that are evidenced-based," said Skinner, who added that Virginia will now offer "more comprehensive" sex education.
Kaine's decision affects only organizations that offer federally funded sex education courses, which the Bush administration has restricted to abstinence-only programs. School systems and organizations that did not receive the funding will still be able to teach a locally based sex education curriculum.
Planned Parenthood of Virginia, which had lobbied for the change in policy, sent out a statement Monday praising Kaine for joining its nationwide campaign to eliminate abstinence-only programs, which urge youths to refrain from sex until marriage.
"There is no evidence that abstinence-only programs equip teens with the education they need to delay sexual activity or prevent unintended pregnancies or the spread of sexually transmitted disease," said Becky Reid, an organizer for Planned Parenthood Health Systems.
With the move, Virginia becomes the 14th state to refuse to support abstinence-only education.
Several social conservatives reacted angrily, accusing Kaine and Planned Parenthood of hiding his decision until after the Nov. 6 election.
Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R-Fairfax) said he will try to get the General Assembly to reverse Kaine's decision when it convenes in January.
"The longer you delay the commencement of sexual activity, you have healthier and happier kids and more successful kids," said Cuccinelli, a conservative who beat his Democratic challenger this year by 92 votes, pending a possible recount.
Conservative House members also said they would try to block Kaine's move.
"When it comes to sex, Democrats can't think straight," Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) said.
Reid said last week's election, in which Democrats took control of the state Senate and made gains in the House, confirms that voters support Kaine's approach.
"People are tired of ideology. We want common-sense approaches to issues," Reid said. "Governor Kaine took a common-sense approach. We have a budget shortfall. This program has not shown to be effective in any way."
Reid and Skinner cited a study released in April that was commissioned by Congress. In the study, Mathematica Policy Research Inc. concluded that students in abstinence-only programs had similar numbers of sexual partners and first had sex at the same age as those who did not participate in the programs.
Victoria Cobb, executive director of the Family Foundation, countered that the Virginia Department of Health conducted a study last year that found a majority of teenagers agree with abstinence-only sex education.
Cobb accused Kaine, who is Catholic, of "making a payoff" to Planned Parenthood because the group traditionally favors Democratic candidates.
"It is extremely disappointing that Governor Kaine, who ran claiming to be a moderate and touted his faith, has chosen to get in bed with a group like Planned Parenthood," Cobb said.
Marshall questioned why Planned Parenthood did not announce Kaine's decision until after the election.
"It really shows where the governor's priorities are," Marshall said.
But Skinner noted that Kaine's budget amendments have been public for six weeks.
"Maybe they should actually read the documents we put out," Skinner said.