GOP lawmaker seeks $550M grant to promote abstinence in teens

Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) on Monday called for the creation of a new federal grant program that would spend half a billion dollars to educate teenagers about why they should not have sex before marriage.

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In a speech on the House floor, Hultgren cited a Centers for Disease Control report from mid-February that said young adults account for 50 percent of all sexually transmitted disease infections.

"This caught my attention because as a father, with two of my four kids in their late teens, I want them to avoid such risks," he said. He called for more federal funding for "risk avoidance education," otherwise known as abstinence education.

"However, currently there is a troubling 16-1 federal funding disparity between contraceptive-centered education and risk avoidance education," he said.

To fix this problem, Hultgren has introduced the Abstinence Education Reallocation Act, H.R. 718, along with Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.). The bill would spend $110 million a year for the next five years on grants to abstinence programs around the country.

To qualify for funding, programs must meet several criteria, including that they teach "the skills and benefits of sexual abstinence as the optimal sexual health behavior for youth." The programs must also educate youth about the "holistic health, economic, and societal benefits that can be gained by refraining from non-marital sexual activity," and the "clear advantage of reserving human sexual activity for marriage."

Programs must also show how drugs, alcohol and the "irresponsible use of social media" can influence sexual decisionmaking.

As of this week, the bill had 12 other cosponsors: Reps. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Steve King (R-Iowa), Billy Long (R-Mo.), Kenny Marchant (R-Texas), Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Steve Scalise (R-La.), Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.).