Va. GOP Assails Kaine on Sex-Ed

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

RICHMOND, Nov. 20 -- Virginia's top Republicans called on Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) to restore state funds for programs that focus exclusively on teaching teenagers to abstain from sex until marriage, intensifying the partisan battle over sex education.

At a news conference Tuesday at the state Capitol, Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling joined other social conservatives and educators in accusing Kaine of ignoring state-sponsored studies that show abstinence-only education works.

"He is a Catholic, and I am a Catholic, and I know our church teaches abstinence," McDonnell said of Kaine. "I am puzzled by his decision."

Kaine's decision to eliminate state funding for such programs pushes Virginia, a generally conservative state, into the forefront of the national debate over how best to prevent teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Kaine's role in the debate could also offer clues as to which way he will lean on social issues during the last two years of his administration.

In response to the GOP news conference, Kaine said he would stand by his decision last month to eliminate $275,000 in state matching funds for federally funded programs that teach abstinence-only sex education. Most of those programs are community-based and not at public schools.

"The research shows programs that are abstinence-only are not successful," Kaine said. "The budget will not have funding for abstinence-only programs. If the people look at the research, the answer is pretty clear."

Kaine points to a congressional study released in April that concluded that students in abstinence-only programs did not have fewer sexual partners or wait any longer to have sex than those who did not participate in the programs. Conservatives say the study was flawed. They say that other studies show the effectiveness of teaching abstinence and that a Fauquier County program, in particular, produced a 60 percent drop in teen sexual activity.

Because the Bush administration restricts sex education grants to groups that teach only abstinence, Planned Parenthood is calling on states to refuse the federal matching grants. Virginia would become the 14th state to do so.

Kaine's decision on abstinence-only sex education is his first concerning a social issue since the Nov. 6 election, when he helped Democrats take control of the state Senate for the first time in a decade and make inroads in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.

In a state where social conservatives have been a major force, some GOP leaders vow to overturn Kaine's decision, and they express concern that he might be emboldened to push a more progressive agenda.

"I expect this is the beginning of him showing what his priorities are," said outgoing Senate Majority Leader Walter A. Stosche (R-Henrico). "It's a controversial matter, but it's important to conservatives like me. We are always doing what we can do to show we do think family values and children are important."

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