NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia
Virginia spends $400,000 on abstinence programs while losing $2.5 million in federal funds due to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s "political agenda."

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia on Monday, June 6th, 2011 in a web video.

NARAL says McDonnell's agenda costs state federal sex ed money

NARAL, an abortion-rights group, accuses Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell of waging a war on women's health.

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia recently unveiled a video that uses a montage of numbers to criticize Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s stance on funding for sex education programs.

Among the claims: "$400,000 -- approximate cost to Virginians to fund ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. $2.5 million -- federal funding for comprehensive sex education programs Virginia lost due to McDonnell’s political agenda."

Are NARAL’s numbers and claims correct? We asked Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, for sources of the information.

Let’s start with the statement that abstinence-only education costs the state $400,000. Keene said that’s a reference to match money Virginia provided to receive a federal grant for abstinence-only sex education.

The payment allows Virginia to participate in the Title V Abstinence Education Grant Program administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program promotes abstinence until marriage to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases.

Last September, HHS announced Virginia would receive an $889,973 grant for abstinence education for fiscal 2010.  States have until Sept. 30, 2012, to spend the money. The federal cash pays for 57 percent of the cost of abstinence programs approved by HHS.

Participating states are required to provide the remaining 43 percent of cost. The match money can come from a variety of sources including from state coffers, foundation dollars and in-kind donations.

Virginia was required to come up with about $670,000 to match the grant.

Jeff Caldwell, a spokesman for the governor, said in an e-mail that the state is paying $382,688 towards the match. The rest is coming from in-kind contributions and community organizations awarded contracts to implement the sexual abstinence programs.

So NARAL is near the bull’s-eye in claiming Virginia is paying an "approximate" $400,000 for abstinence-until marriage programs.

Caldwell noted that the state received federal abstinence education funding under previous governors going back to the 1990s.

But in 2007, Democratic Governor Tim Kaine cut the state’s funding for abstinence-only education. McDonnell reversed that decision last year.

At the same time, McDonnell chose not to seek money from another federal grant program that  teaches students about contraception in addition to abstinence -- the Personal Responsibility Education Program.

Unlike the federal abstinence-only money, the comprehensive sex education grant requires no match. McDonnell’s refusal to participate drew criticism from NARAL and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.  

That brings us to the second part of NARAL’s claim, that Virginia lost $2.5 million in federal money for comprehensive sex education under McDonnell. As a source, NARAL cited an HHS 49-page announcement of the PREP grant, which was created under the 2010 health care reform law.

The HHS synopsis shows Virginia was estimated to receive a total of $2,593,487 during fiscal years 2010 and 2011. That’s close to NARAL’s number.

But NARAL is greatly understating its case. States that didn’t apply for the grant in fiscal 2010 and 2011 are not eligible to seek funding for the 2012-2014 fiscal years. So Virginia potentially missed out on much more than $2.6 million. Estimates for 2012-2014 allotments are not available, said Kenneth Wolfe, an HHS spokesman.

Let’s recap:

A video by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia said that abstinence-only programs pursued under McDonnell have cost the state about $400,000. Meanwhile, the group says the state missed out on about $2.5 million in federal funding for comprehensive sex education.

It’s true the state spent about $400,000 for a federal abstinence-only grant. And it’s true that the McDonnell administration did not apply for a comprehensive sex education grant that would have sent almost $2.6 million to Virginia during fiscal year 2010 and 2011. Because Virginia is now ineligible to apply for the comprehensive grant through 2014, the state will wind up declining a much greater amount of money than NARAL claimed.

We won’t penalize NARAL for understating its case. Its statement is True.