Beyond Shame: Democrats Sell Out Youth

James Wagoner

Today, the House Democrats will waltz into the mark-up of the Labor HHS Subcommittee and proudly present a bill that puts their stamp of approval on domestic abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

Today, the House Democrats will waltz into the mark-up of the Labor HHS Subcommittee and proudly present a bill that puts their stamp of approval on domestic abstinence-only-until-marriage programs—an ideological boondoggle that threatens the health and well-being of America's youth.

The most appalling aspect of this sell-out is that that the Democrats will not only fully fund the worst of the failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs—they'll give them a $27 million increase—the first in three years!

Shame on Congressman David Obey for brokering this "deal;" shame on Congresswoman Nita Lowey for agreeing to it; and shame on those other Democrats on the Appropriations Committee who have already promised not to offer any amendment that would cut funding for abstinence-only programs and thus "upset" the deal.

In one inglorious motion, the Democrats have sold the health and well-being of young people down the proverbial drain, delivered a public slap in the face to evidence-based public health, and made a mockery of their "prevention first" message.

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Consider this irony. The first domestic policy the Democrats will endorse on the prevention front will be to fund abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for young people up to the age of 29! Good work, gang. You make me proud to be a Democrat—NOT!

And consider this second irony. The Democrats will now become one of the largest funders of an ultra-conservative network that is clearly hostile to its policies and candidates (See an in-depth article in The Nation.)

The funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs represents the worst of cynical, "inside-the-beltway" deal-making. Whose interests were protected at the expense of young people's health and lives? Whose politics were advanced by including this "sweetener" for conservatives in an appropriations bill threatened with a Presidential veto? Inquiring minds would like to know.

Now is the time for advocates to hold these Democrats accountable. It would be the height of hypocrisy to go mute when this kind of damage is done to young people because "our friends" are in power.

We cannot afford to play the "never mind" game.

Never mind the Society of Adolescent Medicine report that stated abstinence-only programs "threaten fundamental human rights to health, information and life"; never mind the congressionally-mandated Mathematica study released in April showing that abstinence-only programs simply do not work; never mind the research showing that young people who take "virginity pledges" are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. Should we really ignore it all because these Democrats are "our friends" and we shouldn't publicly criticize our "friends?"

To hell with that! Over the next few weeks we need to mount a campaign to reverse this policy even if it means publicly dinging our "friends." After all, with friends like these, who needs conservative Republicans?

I urge everyone to take action. Tell the Democratic leadership that it is time to END funding for failed abstinence-only programs today!

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