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Latest Version of Health Care Bill Includes Money for Failed Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs

 

For Immediate Release                                                           Contact Patrick Malone
March 18, 2010                                                                          (202) 265-2405
                                                                                                        pmalone@siecus.org

 
Washington, D.C.  – Today, details were released of the Reconciliation Act of 2010, the latest version of the health care reform legislation, in a bid to create a package that will pass both the House and the Senate. Included in the final bill was the Personal Responsibility Education program, which would provide $75 million for a state grant program for more comprehensive approaches to sex education, which would be geared to evidence-based, medically accurate, age-appropriate programs to educate adolescents about both abstinence and contraception in order to prevent unintended teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS. However, the final bill also reinstated the failed Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding program, which directs $50 million a year to states to spend on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Funding for the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program lapsed on June 30, 2009, and had not been renewed.
 
“There is no question that we are sorely disappointed that Congress is moving forward with reinstating funding for the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program,” said Joseph DiNorcia, Jr., President and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).  “They have the facts. They know that this program is harmful to young people, uses federal dollars to spread misinformation, fear, and shame, and is a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.  Who decided it was a good idea to forgo saving a quarter-of-a-billion dollars over the next five years and continue funding for a failed program that leaves young people at risk? Why this program is being brought back from the dead is a mystery.”
 
Beginning in 1981 under the Reagan Administration, the federal government has consistently squandered taxpayer money on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs despite an overwhelming body of evidence—including a study commissioned by the federal government—showing they are ineffective. Funding for these unproven programs grew exponentially since 1996. Between 1996 and federal Fiscal Year 2009, Congress funneled over $1.5 billion dollars (through both federal and state matching funds) to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs through several funding streams including the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program. Leading mainstream public health and medical organizations—including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society of Adolescent Medicine—have raised serious ethical concerns about the government’s support for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, and support a comprehensive sex education approach that includes information about abstinence and contraception. Due to the ethical concerns and evidence proving these programs ineffective, this Fiscal Year marks the first year in nearly three decades that no federal funds have been used to support abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. 
 
“We are pleased that a state grant program for more comprehensive approaches to sex education will be created, and fully support the President and Congress’s efforts to make health care affordable and accessible for everyone, including young people,” continued DiNorcia. “Funding abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, however, does nothing to achieve this goal. Even the Institute of Medicine has called for termination of these programs because they represent ‘poor fiscal and public health policy.’ There is no doubt that continued funding of these programs will lead to further generations growing up without the knowledge to lead safe and healthy lives and  protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and STDs, including HIV. Congress should know better, and must make this right.”
 
With questions or comments please contact Patrick Malone at pmalone@siecus.org or (202)265-2405.
 
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