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House Appropriations Committee Approves Level Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs; Denies President’s Requested Increase

On June 13, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2007 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) spending bill by voice vote. The Labor-HHS bill—which was approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies the previous week—includes $454.6 billion in mandatory spending for entitlement programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, along with $141.9 billion in discretionary funding, a 0.6% increase from Fiscal Year 2006 levels. This is the bill that decides funding levels for, among other things, abstinence-only-until-marriage funding streams, Title X family planning, and the Ryan White CARE Act.

The House Appropriations Committee voted to continue to provide $176 million to federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding streams. This is essentially level funding—the same amount as was granted in Fiscal Year 20061 —and means that the committee denied the President's request to increase funding for these programs. The spending bill includes the three federal funding streams for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs: the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) grant program, the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA), and Title V. For Fiscal Year 2007, the President proposed increasing funding for these programs by $26 million to $204 million.  The entire increase was slated for the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) account, by far the most restrictive of all of the abstinence-only-until-marriage grant programs.

Supporters of comprehensive sexuality education had requested that the House of Representatives stop funding abstinence-only-until-marriage programs altogether.  Over 240 organizations recently sent a letter to the Labor-HHS Subcommittee and to the full House Appropriations Committee demanding that no more money be spent on these programs.  Advocates are pleased, however, with the Appropriations Committee's decision to level fund the programs.

“This is the first time during this Administration that these programs have ever received level funding.  The House Appropriators decision not to grant the President's requested increase is a clear sign that they are listening to advocates when we say that these programs are ineffective and are not what is best for our nation's young people,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS. “Unproven programs should not be receiving increases in funding, especially in these tight fiscal times, and Congress is finally beginning to recognize this,” Smith continued.

The budgets for the Ryan White Care Act and Title X were also decided under the same bill. The Ryan White CARE Act funds a variety of health and social programs across the country for those affected by HIV and AIDS.  House Appropriators granted the Ryan White CARE Act an increase of $70 million, with the entire increase dedicated to improving the quality, availability, and organization of care for those living with HIV/AIDS.  Other portions of the CARE Act, however, were flat-funded. The Title X family planning program, which provides primary health care as well as family planning services to millions of women, was flat-funded once again at $283 million.

While the full House of Representatives was originally scheduled to vote on the Labor-HHS bill on June 21, it is unclear at this time when the bill will come to the floor for a vote. House Republican leaders recently decided to put off a vote on the bill possibly due to the Democrat's successful effort to attach an amendment that would increase the minimum wage by $2.10 per hour. The delay, and speculation that Republican leadership does not want to take a stand on the issue of minimum wage, has fueled rumors that Republican leadership may want to hold off voting on the always contentious bill until after the November elections.

References

  1. The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2006 originally appropriated a total of $178 million in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. However, a one percent cut (rescission) was later applied to all discretionary Federal programs subject to annual appropriation. Abstinence-only-until-marriage funding streams for Fiscal Year 2006 totaled $176 million after the 1% rescission was enacted.

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