State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
Earlier this year I blogged that despite the fact it is rare for a state to turn down a federal grant, Governor Doyle did just that. He refused to accept grant money that would have been used by school districts that teach abstinence-only courses.
In March, I wrote:
“His rejection of $602,958 in federal money will hurt efforts to instruct Wisconsin teenagers that abstinence is, and this is indisputable, the only method guaranteed to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases.
Acceptance of the federal grant money would not have cost the state. Doyle's rejection does cost the state.
According to the Wisconsin Abstinence Coalition, the federal dollars pay for the salary, benefits, and expenses of a state Abstinence Title V Program Consultant in the Department of Health and Family Services. The grant also pays for four of every seven dollars expected to be spent within a state's Title V program. There is a match requirement of three dollars for every federally awarded four dollars that Wisconsin passes on to the sub-grantees. Matching funds could come from State dollars, local government dollars, private sector dollars or in-kind support. Therefore, the target population in Wisconsin is losing $1,051,680 in program dollars.”
Other states are rejecting federal aid or notifying the federal government they will not apply, claiming abstinence programs are ineffective and to blame for an increase in teen births.
Those states are making a big mistake according to Stan Koutstaal of the Department of Health and Human Services. He told the Washington Post, “My greatest concern about states dropping out is that these are valuable services and programs. It's the youths in these states who are missing out."
Supporters are continuing to fight for abstinence funding.
Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association told the Washington Post, “We're talking about the health of millions of youth across the United States. We know abstinence education offers the best for them. Now is the time to put more emphasis on that message, not less."
Huber scoffed at critics of abstinence programs.
"Our critics would have governors believe that these programs are just somebody standing in front of the class wagging a finger and saying, 'No. No. No. Don't have sex.' That's not what these classes entail. They are holistic. They include relationship-building skills and medically accurate discussions of sexually transmitted diseases and contraception,” said Huber.
Koutstaal also takes issue with abstinence education critics.
Nationally syndicated radio talk show host, best-selling author and veteran film critic Michael Medved has also weighed in on this topic. In his blog, Medved writes:
“Recent headlines announced a sudden rise in the teen birthrate and Planned Parenthood and CNN lost no time in blaming the abstinence education programs backed by Christian conservatives.
For one thing, the unexpected increase in pregnancies among teenagers hardly represents a crisis: it’s a 3% increase after 14 straight years of decline, and teen pregnancy rates are still more than 30% lower than they were in 1991.
It’s also ridiculous to single out the limited funding for abstinence education, when the federal government still devotes six times the money toward programs that emphasize birth control and that Planned Parenthood enthusiastically supports.
Moreover, most commentators forgot to mention that birthrates not only increased for teenagers, but also went up for women in their 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s. This increase could even indicate a cultural change that’s basically positive: with more and more Americans looking at children as a blessing rather than a burden.
Unfortunately, it also no doubt reflects the rapidly disappearing stigma attached to out-of-wedlock birth and the general obsession with sexuality in our society. In any event, it’s outrageous to blame religious conservatives who are the strongest voice for placing that sexuality in a responsible marital context.”
I authored a bill that was signed into law last session that requires school districts that provide sex education to present abstinence as the most effective way to prevent pregnancy. It is shameful that the Governor would refuse to accept federal money that could provide much-needed public health information to Wisconsin youth.