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Texas spends $1.2 million on teen abstinence website

Texas spends $1.2 million on abstinence website to reduce teen pregnancy, doesn't mention contraception.
Posted By KRISTEN BUTLER, UPI.com   |   Sept. 27, 2013 at 1:21 PM   |   Comments

Sept. 27 (UPI) -- In September the Texas Department of State Health blitzed the radio and TV with ads for a new teen abstinence website that will cost $1.2 million over the next year.

Texas has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, and the new website aims to address the issue by promoting strict abstinence before marriage.

The website, ourtown4teens.org, is paid for with federal money from a program called the Title V State Abstinence Education Grant Program.

As such, there is no mention anywhere on the site of contraception. Title V recipients must use the money to support abstinence, and teach that sex outside marriage could have harmful psychological and physical effects.

In light of widespread agreement that abstinence-only education does not reduce teen birth rates, and that in fact comprehensive education that includes information about contraception does reduce teen birth rates, President Obama attempted in 2010 to remove Title V funding from the federal budget.

But social conservatives in Congress pushed back and restored the Title V grants -- as a concession to get Obamacare passed. Federal funding for so-called "abstinence-plus" education that includes contraception information exceeds abstinence-only funding, but hasn't fully replaced it in many states.

State health department spokesperson Christine Mann said that "as a general strategy Texas is an abstinence-first state. Abstinence is our first choice for teens.”

Texas has also enacted sweeping abortion restrictions now being challenged in a federal lawsuit, and prior to that eliminated the Texas Women's Health Program, leaving many young and low-income women without access to reproductive healthcare.

For 2014, the Texas Department of State Health Services received $5.1 million in federal Title V grants, and matched it with another $559,000 from general state revenue.

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