Category Archives: Abstinence education

Healthcare Bill Pushes Abstinence Education

For those following the abstinence education saga, the Senate Health Care Bill contains Abstinence Education Reauthorization.

Washington, DC (November 18, 2009)-  Abstinence education funding is partially restored within the Senate Health Care Bill, a result of the Reid reconciliation of versions offered by the Senate HELP and Finance committees. The Reid bill also includes state block grant funding for so-called “comprehensive” sex education, which primarily focuses on risk reduction, while abstinence education focuses on risk avoidance. Earlier this fall, an abstinence amendment passed with bipartisan support in the Finance committee. Offered by Sen. Hatch (R-UT), the amendment would continue the Title V state funding for abstinence education through 2014. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)  added the provision on page 618 of the 2,074 page health care proposal.  “Inserting language to restore funding for abstinence education could not have come at a more critical time. The recent CDC statistics detailing epidemic levels of STDs calls for a strong primary prevention message – a strategy only found within abstinence education” noted Valerie Huber, Executive Director of NAEA. “We are pleased that Senator Reid inserted this provision within his health care bill because the sexual health of America’s teens depend upon the kinds of skills that are a part of a typical abstinence education program.” Huber said,

“It is encouraging to know that the program originally signed into law by President Bill Clinton is back on track for continued funding. However, while we applaud Senator Reid’s support for  abstinence education within his proposal, we acknowledge that this is only an intermediate victory. Much work remains before Congress finishes its work on health care. Today’s news is a welcome sign at this critical stage, but we will continue our efforts until youth are again assured continued abstinence education in their schools.”

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Abstinence Education is back

After slashing abstinence education funding from the Health and Human Services budget in the summer, Senators – who happen to be parents – voted to add $50 million for abstinence funding on to the healthcare bill. This move recognizes parental opinion illustrated in the 2007 Zogby poll that attests that the vast majority of parents want their children to receive abstinence education and 83 percent want their children to be abstinent until marriage.

The Senate Finance Committee handed a victory to abstinence-education advocates.  Members voted to fund abstinence-education programs by a vote of 12-11.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, adds $50 million to abstinence-based programs across the country.

In a statement, Hatch said abstinence education works.

“My amendment restores a vital funding stream,” he said, “so that teens and parents have the option to participate in programs that have demonstrated success in reducing teen sexual activity and, consequently, teen pregnancies.”

Two Democrats, Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, joined all 10 Republicans on the committee to pass the measure.

The resolution still must pass the full House and Senate before it becomes a piece of the healthcare legislation, but we’re excited that 12 smart Senators listened to Americans and made the right choice.

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Wave Abstinence Education Goodbye

Without so much as a feminist fiesta or tribute to Michael Jackson’s sexually liberating Dirty Diana lyrics, abstinence education is dead.

The Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee approved $730.5 billion to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education last week. While the Subcommittee funds programs to “help at-risk women and teens bear healthy children,” it conspicuously disavows the very means to ensure that teens will not become pregnant in the first place.

Removal of abstinence-only education funding was not entirely unexpected after Congress let the only other source of abstinence funding expire in June. Contentious debates regarding the effectiveness of federally-funded abstinence programs suggest that the appropriations bill would be either more widely condemned or more excitedly praised, but no one is waving abstinence education good-bye.

Growing unwed birthrates and a current spending ratio of 12:1 favoring sex education programs prompt reform, not an “eh, shrug” mentality that results in throwing out abstinence education for good. Boys will be boys – and girls will be girls – is the doctrine of our new budget.

Sex education is normalized as society accepts that modern culture will inevitably sexualize US teenagers. Instead of providing a wise, convincing, and effective approach to healthy relationships, sex-ed programs assume that “kids will do it anyway,” and decide that if it is going to happen, it might as well happen “safely.”

But if we accept that culture will sexualize our youth, we give up hope for a strong civil society where teenagers graduate from high school with their emotional and physical health intact and their chances at an enviable future more promising than ever.

The underlying difficulty with an “eh, shrug” mentality is that boys are not naturally sex-addicted and girls are not naturally prone to handing over their virginity to any pubescent classmate.

America can do without the “eh, shrug” mentality when it comes to protecting our children. Boys will be “boys” until they are called to be men. Girls will be “girls” until they are told they are worth waiting for. The HHS-Labor bill hits the House floor next week, so all together now: turn off Dirty Diana.

-Rachel Wagley

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