Last week, House Republicans released their version of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill in an attempt to make their mark in Senate negotiations. (The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the bill the week before.) While this version is not expected to be marked-up or voted on, it shows how House Republicans are thinking and that’s a little frightening.
Using “fiscal responsibility” as a rallying cry, they propose gutting programs that help young people and women yet are willing to sink new money into abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that have been repeatedly proven ineffective.
The proposed bill cuts funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative from $110 million to just $20 million. The new initiative, according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), funds a total of 102 grantees in 36 states and is set to reach over 800,000 young people annually. It began in FY 2010 and was designed to support “medically accurate and age-appropriate programs to reduce teen pregnancy and underlying behavioral risk factors.” Many saw this as the Obama Administration’s answer to the Bush-era investment in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs which did not work. Not only would the cuts force the government to drastically reduce the number of grantees receiving money, the proposed bill also removes the important requirement that all programs be evidence-based, which disregards the intent of the initiative and makes room for abstinence-only programs to apply.
But they might not have to because the bill also resurrects the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) grant program. CBAE was always considered the strictest of the funding streams for abstinence-only programs in part because the money went straight from the Department of Health and Human Services to community-based organizations bypassing the states which were often more relaxed about the definition of what constitutes an abstinence-only program. Funding for CBAE was finally eliminated in Fiscal Year 2010. In this proposed bill, it once again would receive $20 million.
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Of course, sex education was not the only target of House Republicans. This proposed legislation also eliminates funding for Title X, which supports family planning services to low income women, and cuts funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention by $32.7 million.
Thankfully, the Senate version does not include these cuts and while such cuts will likely not make it into law as written, they do make it clear what Republicans really want. As SIECUS points out, in the name of fiscal responsibility, they are once again cutting “programs that many ultra-conservative Members of Congress have been trying to get rid of for years,” while bringing back funding for a conservative pet project. Sounds more like hypocrisy than responsibility.