The FY10 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill heads to the House floor today. The Appropriations Committee approved this annual spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education last week. While the appropriation includes funds for programs to “help at-risk women and teens bear healthy children,” it eliminates funding for abstinenceeducation and 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. But the increasing unwed birthrate and a current federal spending ratio of 12:1 favoring “safe sex” and contraception education programs over abstinence education would seem to call for programs that have proven effective, rather than more of the same.
While the Labor-HHS bill allocates $114 million for a new teen pregnancy prevention initiative, it does not require any abstinence promotion. The bill strips funding for the entire Community Based Abstinence Education program while injecting more money into already well-funded comprehensive sex education programs.
Notably, a 2006 Zogby poll revealed that parents prefer abstinence education 2 to 1. Valerie Huber, president of the National Abstinence Education Association, lamented that “[t]he signs that we’re seeing to this point are showing that maybe politics are playing a more important role than the health of kids in some decisions that are being made in Congress.”
Instead of providing a wise, convincing, and effective approach to healthy relationships, comprehensive sex-ed programs assume that “kids will do it anyway,” so it might as well happen “safely.” But accepting that culture will sexualize youth gives up hope for a strong civil society where teenagers graduate from high school with their emotional and physical health intact and the best chances of a promising future.