Today, President Obama will sign into law the first-ever cut to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in our nation’s history. We applaud him. More than a quarter century after this flawed approach was set into place, its demise is long overdue.
The President’s signing of the remaining appropriations for 2009 cuts domestic funding for failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs by more than $14 million dollars. This would not have been possible without the leadership of many friends in Congress. We are especially grateful to Senator Harkin (D-IA) for his efforts in negotiations with his colleagues and for working toward an even larger cut to these programs.
This same legislation also includes many other important elements that have been denied by too many years of ideology taking precedence over common sense, mainstream American values, and what science says work. For example, the law will provide additional family planning resources, increased resources to address the neglected HIV/AIDS epidemic here at home, and a down payment to create our nation’s first National AIDS Strategy.
There is much to celebrate. However, today’s cut still leaves over $160 million squandered on programs in 2009 that we know do not work and that undermine our attempts to raise healthy and responsible young people. One dollar towards these programs is too much, but we also recognize that the bill signed today is based on decisions that were made before the new President and the new Congress came into power.
The President will soon present a more detailed budget to Congress and we call on him to ensure that there is no money for any failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in that budget. Congress should then follow his lead.
But ending bad programs is only one side of a coin. The President’s budget must also invest in comprehensive sex education programs. President Obama supports a comprehensive approach to sex education and, as a Senator, was a co-sponsor of the federal comprehensive sex education bill, the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act. Now is the time to invest into these programs that will work for us and, in fact, evidence shows that a more comprehensive approach even does a better job of helping young people be abstinent and delay sex than abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
We have taken a significant step forward in this bill and look forward to working with the President’s Administration and our many friends in Congress to help create a brighter tomorrow for our youth.