Congress Increasing Funding for Ab-Only?

Ellen Marshall

The latest news is that the House Labor-Health and Human Services subcommittee is planning on spending $27 million more than last year (a total of $140 million) on abstinence-only programs.

Thinking globally doesn't seem to apply locally for the Congress. In the same week, the House Appropriations Committee seems to be of two minds on ensuring that all people have the information and services they need to decide when they do begin to have sexual relations, and when they do, to be able to protect themselves against unintended pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

While yesterday the House Foreign Operations subcommittee approved legislation that enables global HIV prevention programs to determine at the country level the most effective and relevant mix of services needed by individuals there, the word is that the House Labor-Health and Human Services subcommittee is planning on spending $27 million more than last year (a total of $140 million) on abstinence-only programs (specifically for CBAE—Community Based Abstinence Education program—as early as tomorrow). Yes, the same programs that time and again have been proven to have NO impact on changing the sexual behaviors of young people—but can create increased risk because they are refused a breadth of knowledge on the subject.

It is unconscionable for the Democratic leadership to play into the politics of abstinence only programming, rather than paying attention to the public health evidence. Even more disturbing—in a time of limited resources for public health programs—that the United States think about throwing good money after bad by adding funding to these programs. Just take a look at the states—coast to coast and parts in between—that are rejecting this kind of programming. So why spend more money?

Certainly if the Congressional leadership can see the benefit of ensuring flexibility in international programs to enable the best public health outcomes, the same principle should be applied to domestic programs.

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