On September 29, 2009 the Senate Finance Committee approved two amendments to the health care reform bill—one creating a comprehensive sex education program for the states and the other extending the failed Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program.
Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) offered an amendment to create a comprehensive sex education funding stream for the states The Personal Responsibility Education for Adulthood Training. The amendment provides $75 million for states; $50 million of 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 infections, including HIV/AIDS. The remaining funds would support innovative programs as well as research and evaluation. The amendment passed 14–9 with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe (ME) joining all the Democrats voting in favor.
“We would like to thank Chairman Baucus and his staff for their strong support of a comprehensive approach to sex education, ensuring that all young people have access to information so that they can make responsible decisions and lead healthy and safe lives,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS. “The Baucus Amendment creates a new comprehensive sex education program for the states and can be easily reconciled with a similar measure, the Healthy Teen Initiative, on the House side. This is a huge step in putting evidence and common sense over hypermorality and will get states the money they need to support good programming.”
There was also a vote on an amendment introduced by Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) that reinstated funding for the failed Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program which had expired on June 30, 2009. The amendment, which would direct $50 million a year to Title V abstinence-only programs through Fiscal Year 2014, passed 12–11 with Democratic Senators Blanche Lincoln (AR) and Kent Conrad (ND) joining all the Republicans on the Committee in favor. Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding had been refused by nearly half of the states both because of the restrictive nature of the program and the fact that overwhelming evidence has proven these programs to be ineffective and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
“We need to ensure the Senate only funds a comprehensive approach to sex education and does not follow through with funding ineffective abstinence-only programs that leave young people at risk,” said Smith “We are too close to finally seeing an end to all federal funding for failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and Congress needs to take a stand that continuation of this funding is unacceptable. We are confident it will be stripped from the final bill and ask Congressional leaders and the White House to ensure this happens,” added Smith.
Both amendments still face several potential hurdles in committee, on the Senate floor, and in conference with the House before they become law.