Friday, June 08, 2007

Sex (mis)education legislation passes House subcommittee

Contraception works and is important! But... don't tell the children.

The House Appropriations subcommittee for Labor and Health & Human Services (LHHS) approved an appropriations bill to increasing funds for family planning through Title X by over $27 million. The Public Health Services Act, the portion of Title X that funds family planning services, was first introduced into Congress by then-Representative H.W. Bush and signed into law by President Nixon in 1970.

The problem with yesterday’s action is it includes funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that censor information about birth control and the health benefits of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted diseases. Abstinence-only sex education emphasizes complete abstinence from sex until marriage. Discussion of contraceptives is restricted to their failure rate. Yesterday’s vote comes less than two months after a study revealed these programs have no impact on the behavior of teenagers.

According to Medical News Today, “studies have shown that the virginity pledge is nearly always broken by those who make the promise. The problem then is that these people have not had adequate sexual health education and are more likely to develop STDs unknowingly and end up going to the doctor when the disease(s) is in its advanced stage.”

Abstinence-only sex education received funding initially under the Reagan administration and was strongly promoted by the Republican led Congress of that past few years. Last month new Democratic House leaders indicated they planned to let expire the $50 million in annual federal funds supporting abstinence-only education. Thus it came as a shock when the bill with the abstinence-only funding came out the subcommittee. Supposedly, Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., wants to avoid controversy on social issues this year in order to move other legislation through Congress.

The reaction was swift. According to Daily Kos, “This is more than just controversial social policy. This is a profound failure on the part of Democratic leadership, once again, to stand up to a harmful conservative agenda. This, of all ridiculous policies wrought on the nation by the GOP Congress, is a no-brainer to let die.”

The ACLU says, “Rarely do we at the ACLU come across a problem like abstinence-only-until-marriage that cuts across so many civil liberties issues: censoring information; creating a hostile environment for gay and lesbian teens, reinforcing gender stereotypes, and in some instances using taxpayer dollars to promote religion.”

NARAL says Congress is repeating the mistakes of the past and asks that this legislation be fixed.

Here is how an angry James Wagoner, President of Advocates for Youth, sees it:

Today, the House Democrats will waltz into the mark-up of the Labor HHS Subcommittee and proudly present a bill that puts their stamp of approval on domestic abstinence-only-until-marriage programs—an ideological boondoggle that threatens the health and well-being of America's youth.

The most appalling aspect of this sell-out is that that the Democrats will not only fully fund the worst of the failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs—they'll give them a $27 million increase—the first in three years!

Shame on Congressman David Obey for brokering this "deal;" shame on Congresswoman Nita Lowey for agreeing to it; and shame on those other Democrats on the Appropriations Committee who have already promised not to offer any amendment that would cut funding for abstinence-only programs and thus "upset" the deal.

In one inglorious motion, the Democrats have sold the health and well-being of young people down the proverbial drain, delivered a public slap in the face to evidence-based public health, and made a mockery of their "
prevention first" message.

Consider this irony. The first domestic policy the Democrats will endorse on the prevention front will be to fund abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for young people up to the age of 29! Good work, gang. You make me proud to be a Democrat—NOT!

The problem with this sex “mis-education” program is that it leaves teens vulnerable. While teen pregnancy rates are decreasing, the teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. is still the highest in the industrialized world ranging between 750,000 and 850,000 teen pregnancies a year. Teenagers in the U.S. contract an estimated 9.1 million sexually transmitted infections annually. An average of two young Americans are infected with HIV every hour.

You can take action here.

1 comment:

Tim said...

There is no single issue that makes me crazier than the politization of science. In fact, that reminds me that I need to post a review of Chris Mooney's book The Republican War on Science.