Take a look at the Obama Administration’s newest grant announcement for marriage education. Everything looks okay until page 29. There, listed as one of the “Unallowable Activities,” is abstinence education.
Wait a second. One would expect that with the name Healthy Marriage and Relationship Grants, these programs would aim to promote, well, healthy marriage and relationships. But then why ban educators from talking to youth about delaying sexual activity—a factor associated with stronger marriages—not to mention helping youth avoid a host of other social ills?
As Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association stated:
Preventing youth from receiving sexual abstinence skills…completely ignores the body of research that now links teen sex to future divorce in marriage.
Considering such findings, it makes no sense that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would strictly prohibit abstinence education in attempting to promote healthy marriage. Beyond this, however, the goal of these marriage programs is to decrease the number of children raised by a single parent and, by doing so, decrease poverty. (Marriage drops child poverty by 82 percent, and the lack of married fathers in the home is the greatest driver of child poverty today.)
Abstinence education helps young adults avoid the path of single parenthood for a route more likely to lead to a stable marriage. Nobody is helped by failing to give young adults this message.
In fact, as Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector notes:
On the issue of non-marital childbearing, a deliberate social silence has reigned for almost half a century. Low-income youth have never been told that marriage is beneficial; they have never been told that having a child outside of marriage is likely to have harmful consequences.
Young people, especially those in low-income communities, need to understand the importance of marriage. And that message cannot simply disregard the important role of abstinence in helping youth achieve successful marriages. Doing so does a disservice to the very people these programs are designed to help.
At a time when out-of-wedlock birthrates are at historic highs, the messages of abstinence and the benefits of marriage are crucial to promoting a bright future for youth and for the future of this nation.