In the mid-1990s, teen sex and illegitimacy became a focus of concern for conservatives who were trying to reform the welfare system. They charged that the welfare system rewarded premarital sex and out-ofwedlock births by granting benefits to unwed mothers. The best way to reduce the welfare rolls, and therefore illegitimacy, they argued, was to emphasize abstinence-only sex education programs in schools. In 1996, Congress included in its welfare reform act a provision to encourage states to require abstinence-only sex education programs in their schools. Congress authorized grants of $250 million over five years to states that required school-based abstinence-only sex education programs. In addition, the five states that showed the largest drop in teen pregnancy without a corresponding increase in the abortion rate would split an additional $400 million.
The 1996 legislation is very specific about what the abstinence-only programs must and must not teach. Under the law,... [continues]
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