Abstinence-Only Funding Not Dead if Congress Plays “Hide-the-Salami” Again

Wendy Norris

Will funding for abstinence-only-until marriage programs stay out of the budget once Congress gets its hands on it?

Reproductive health advocates cheered the news Friday that President Barack Obama proposed cutting cut two abstinence-only sex education programs totalling over $100 million from the federal budget in lieu of more effective, comprehensive teen pregnancy prevention programs.

But the real test of wills comes in the Congressional conference
committee on the federal budget where one Democratic member has a
penchant for playing “hide the salami” with funding for the
controversial chaste-until-marriage program.

As we’ve reported previously, the labyrinthine budgeting process Congress has been giving it away big time — to the tune of now more than $1.3 billion for abstinence-only programs in the past 10 years.

We’ve long-documented the fancy footsteps of Rep. David Obey (D-WI), chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, who
slipped additional funding into a 2007 report prepared by the
conference committee — the body responsible for ironing out final
discrepancies between the House and Senate versions of the Labor,
Health and Human Services and Education budget bill before it goes to
the president.

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Obey, a fierce proponent of “just say no to sex education,”
repeatedly crossed swords with reproductive health advocates in 2007
when he first attempted to boost funding for the Community-Based
Abstinence Education (CBAE) program to $141 million, a 25 percent
increase over last year.  In press accounts, Obey argued that the extra
funds are a necessary evil to placate conservative lawmakers in order
to make the larger spending bill veto-proof by then-President George W.
Bush.

Whether Obey will abide Obama’s directive on the funding will be the
subject of close scrutiny by budget hawks, religious conservatives and
reproductive freedom groups, alike.

For her part, Denver Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette, a fierce advocate for
comprehensive sex education, said in a statement,
“Eliminating funding for ineffective abstinence-only programs
is a win for science. The Obama budget proposal invests in programs
that are effective and based on sound science, rather than wasting
millions of dollars on efforts that have been proven to be ineffective
at best.”

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