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“I apologize to everyone who got involved in this story, but I couldn’t go ahead with it. It would be a big mistake.”

The call came from a 21-year-old woman named Sandy who had planned to auction off her virginity on a Santiago radio station to pay for her tuition in the Chilean capital. The student was prepared to offer a doctor’s certificate to prove she was a virgin.

According to La Cuarta online, Sandy said, “I got so many emails offering me marriage, houses, cars and money from many countries around the world. But many people were also offering advice and telling me not to go ahead with the plan.”

Santiago radio show, Radio W, reported receiving thousands of emails from people wanting to place bids. But the highest bidder for this indecent proposal was a woman benefactor who offered to pay for Sandy’s college tuition with no strings attached. And that was an offer the student simply could not refuse.

Virginity was valuable, but it seems keeping it commanded a higher price.

The benefactor knew that to persuade Sandy to hold onto her purity, she must be willing to pay. But in offering to provide for the student’s college education, this benefactor saved Sandy from using her body as bounty and being a slave to sex to further her dreams and ambitions.

“Now I want to save myself for someone I love,” Sandy told Radio W.

Even though this independent and educated young woman chose to remain a virgin, it is this type of story where purity trumps promiscuity that infuriates family planning groups and other fierce proponents of condom distribution. To them, abstinence is the enemy and financially threatens their very existence.

In July, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, announced 28 new SPRANS (Special Projects of Regional and National Significance) grants totaling more than $15 million to implement new abstinence education programs for youth ages 12 to 18. SPRANS grants, which last three years, are typically used as seed money to start new abstinence programs. Total abstinence funding, including SPRANS grants, has risen from $102 million in 2002 to $117 million in 2003. President Bush has requested $135 million for his 2004 budget.

But compared to the staggering $5 billion that Title X (one of 26 federal programs with teen pregnancy prevention components) has received since its inception in 1971, Congress has merely tossed abstinence educators a candy bar while handing family planning groups the keys to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. And judging from the success of abstinence programs, these groups are fearful their candy will be taken away.

“Abstinence education has been spreading dramatically over the last five years,” said Scott Phelps, an abstinence educator with Project Reality. “So much more is being accomplished dollar for dollar. (These groups) are really losing. They can see the handwriting on the wall.”

Fueled largely by hundreds of volunteers that continually work in the trenches of their local school districts and health departments, abstinence educators though they lag far behind the more-sophisticated, well-connected, and well-funded family planning groups in the federal grant market are gaining in expertise and some have even begun hiring grant writers to better their chances of procuring federal funds. Of the 302 abstinence programs that applied for a SPRANS grant this year, 147 applications were approved. But due to a “lack of funds,” only 28 grants were awarded.

The Mesilla Valley Pregnancy Resource Center’s grant application for $250,000 was one of the 147 approved by HHS, which would have allowed the 4-year-old non-profit based in Las Cruces, New Mexico to purchase abstinence materials, equipment and training for their volunteers. But they didn’t make the final cut. Will they apply next year?

“You bet,” said Angie Carver, nurse practitioner and part-time volunteer. “It doesn’t change anything. This will be another year of laying the foundation.”

It is a foundation that has well been laid. A study published in Adolescent & Family Health shows that abstinence was the primary cause for the decline in non-marital birth and pregnancy rates for teens from 1991 to 1995. And today, there are more teenagers abstaining from sex than there are teens who are sexually active.

Comprehensive sex education promoters will always have something to push abortions, contraceptives and Planned Parenthood’s “Milk Chocolate Birth Control Pill Pack.” Abstinence, however, has no tangible “product” to sell. How do you package a future and hope? Educators know, however, that presenting teens with a healthier alternative to contraceptives and promiscuous sex will give them the chance to live out their dreams without being shackled to sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and poverty.

And that’s an offer many simply can’t refuse.

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