Government funding for abstinence education is at an all-time high, reaching $120 million this year.

Abstinence education supporters call the funding a step in the right direction, but said that more needs to be done.

“This is as high as it’s ever been,” Heritage Foundation analyst Robert Rector told the Washington Times. However, Rector said, the goal remains at least $135 million per year, which would put abstinence funding on par with spending for contraceptive education.

The funding includes $117 million in ongoing programs and nearly $3.5 million in one-time donations to specific programs.

President Bush tried to meet the $135 million goal this year by budgeting $73 million for one abstinence grant program, according to the Wichita Chronicle. Instead, Congress funded the same program at $55 million.

The federal government funds abstinence education through three programs, reported, and it has steadily increased since Bush’s election.

In 2001, total funding was only $80 million; in 2002 it reached $100 million.

“Abstinence education is very valuable in promoting a viable alternative to sexual activity” and can reduce the risks of unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease and single parenthood, Sen. Arlen Specter, who pushed for the earmarks with fellow Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, told the Washington Times.

Comprehensive sex education supporters are calling the additional abstinence funding inappropriate.

Kate Bowen Smith of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States told the Times that the funding, especially the earmarks, sets a bad precedent.

“We are ignoring our young people’s need for accurate and complete information by investing in unproven abstinence programs,” she said.

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.

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