In Monday night’s debate, Rick Santorum argued that three things can help prevent someone from falling into poverty: graduating from high school, working, and getting married before he or she has children. In an attempt to illustrate this philosophical difference with the Obama administration, Santorum offered this example:
Elaine Bennett runs a program called Best Friends, the wife of Bill Bennett. And she told me through Bill that the Obama administration now has a policy, and this program is a program targeted at at-risk youth, specifically in many case necessary the African-American community, who are at-risk young girls. The Obama administration now has regulations that [tell] them that they can no longer promote marriage to these young girls. They can no longer promote marriage as a way of avoiding poverty and bad choices that they make in their life. They can no longer even teach abstinence education. They have to be neutral with respect to how people behave.
In a statement to the press, Elayne Bennett clarifies that the Obama administration has not forbidden her organization to discuss marriage but rather abstinence:
I respect and admire Senator Santorum and appreciate his concern for inner city girls. I must correct a statement attributed to me in the Republican presidential debate Monday January 16th.
The Department of Health and Human Services changed the policy for the Healthy Marriage grant awardees in 2009. Under the new policy, abstinence from sexual activity was not to be discussed within our Healthy Marriage program. The word abstinence was to be removed from all our curriculum utilized in this grant funded program. Marriage and the benefits of marriage continued to be an integral part of the curriculum.
I am concerned that Senator Santorum’s statement during the debate could be flagged as inaccurate. I hope the campaign will make a timely correction.