Obama budget cuts funds for 'abstinence-only'

WASHINGTON, May 7 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama’s $3.55 trillion budget proposal, released on Thursday, eliminates spending for programs that teach U.S. schoolchildren sexual abstinence and shifts funds to programs aimed at reducing teenage pregnancy.

The administration’s $78.4 billion spending plan for the Department of Health and Human Services, which must be reviewed and approved by Congress, includes support for teen pregnancy prevention.

“The program will fund models that stress the importance of abstinence while providing medically accurate and age-appropriate information to youth who have already become sexually active,” the budget proposal said.

The so-called “abstinence only” programs, backed by many social conservatives who oppose the teaching of contraception methods to teenagers in schools, have received about $1.3 billion in federal funds since the late 1990s.

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics published in March said the U.S. teen birth rate rose for a second straight year in 2007 after a long decline.

Some experts blame the teen birth rate increases on government support for “abstinence-only” education under the Bush administration, which left office in January. But abstinence-only advocates have defended it as sound.

The American Public Health Association and U.S. Institute of Medicine told Congress last year that scientific studies have not found that abstinence-only teaching works to cut pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases. (Reporting by JoAnne Allen)