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Specter Brings Pork Back to the Table for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in Pennsylvania

Once again, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) has included earmarks for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in his home state of Pennsylvania in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill. The decision to reinstate his now infamous earmarks in the Fiscal Year 2007 Labor-HHS bill has caused great concern among Pennsylvania's advocates and came as a surprise to many as Senator Specter did not allow any earmarks, whatsoever, in last year's Labor-HHS spending bill. As Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees Labor-HHS funding levels, Senator Specter has great discretion over funds within the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. This year, the earmarks for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Pennsylvania total $3.36 million and were taken from the “funds for child abuse discretionary activities.”1 (See the full list of organizations and grant levels below.) These earmarks are in addition to the $176 million the Senate already granted through the three traditional abstinence-only-until-marriage funding streams.2

Before Fiscal Year 2003, there were only three federal funding streams for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs—the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA), Title V, and Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE). However, that changed in Fiscal Year 2003 when Senator Specter set a new precedent for the federal funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs by securing earmarks of approximately $3.15 million within the federal Omnibus Appropriations Bill (which included the Labor-HHS appropriations bill that year) for individual abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in his home state of Pennsylvania. This was the first time a member of Congress earmarked money for specific abstinence-only-until-marriage programs outside of the three traditional federal funding streams. Senator Specter continued these earmarks in Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005. Each of these years, Senator Specter earmarked over $3 million for Pennsylvania-based organizations. At this point, the earmarks are not considered to be final as the Labor-HHS bill is not expected to be completed until after the upcoming election in November.3 If this year's earmarks do become final, this will mean that over $12 million has gone to specifically designated programs in Pennsylvania.

State-based advocates consider the earmarks to be a particular affront due to the fact that Pennsylvania has rejected one source of abstinence-only until-marriage funding for the last three years. In 2003, Pennsylvania evaluated its Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. The evaluation found that, “taken as a whole, this initiative was largely ineffective in reducing sexual onset and promoting attitudes and skills consistent with sexual abstinence. There were, however, a few programs that were able to achieve moderate outcomes with younger youth which may serve as potential models for promoting sexual abstinence…Even within these programs, however, the effects were relative and not absolute.”4 Based on this evaluation, and due to the extraordinary restrictions placed on how the money must be spent, Pennsylvania rejected the Title V funding granted to their state, and has continued to do so for the past three years

Opponents of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs see this renewal of earmarks by Senator Specter as political pork-barrel spending and an attempt to appease the religious right of the Republican Party in his state. This is particularly salient as Pennsylvania 's junior Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) is running for reelection this November in a tight race against Democrat Bob Casey. Some see Senator Specter's earmarks as an attempt to shore up support from the state's conservative constituency and to help Senator Santorum with his tough reelection campaign.

“We are disappointed that Senator Specter chose to put politics above the health and welfare of Pennsylvania 's young people,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS. “ Pennsylvania has made a concerted effort to reject federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding. Senator Specter should respect the wishes of the people of Pennsylvania,” continued Smith.

Below is a list of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs receiving earmarks from Senator Specter, as noted in the Fiscal Year 2007 Labor-HHS Senate Committee report. All earmarks were taken from the “funds for child abuse discretionary activities” and were granted for “abstinence education and related services,” unless otherwise noted. 5

  • A+ For Abstinence, Waynesboro, PA ($100,000)
  • Best Friends Foundation, Washington, DC, to expand a national network of school-based programs which reduce risk behavior and increase physical and emotional well-being of adolescents to Erie and Pittsburgh ($200,000)
  • Catholic Social Services, Wilkesbarre, PA ($100,000)
  • City of Chester, Bureau of Health, Chester, PA ($100,000)
  • Crozer Chester Medical Center, Upland, PA ($100,000)
  • George Washington Carver Community Center, Norristown, PA ($100,000)
  • Guidance Center, Ridgeway, PA ($100,000)
  • Heart Beat, Millerstown, PA ($100,000)
  • Keystone Central School District, Mill Hall, PA ($100,000)
  • Keystone Economic Development Corporation, Johnstown, PA ($100,000)
  • Lackawanna Trail School District, Factoryville, PA ($100,000)
  • LaSalle University, Philadelphia, PA ($110,000)
  • Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA ($110,000)
  • My Choice Inc., Athens, PA ($100,000)
  • New Brighton School District, New Brighton, PA ($100,000)
  • Nueva Esperanza, Philadelphia, PA ($100,000)
  • Partners for Healthier Tomorrows, Ephrata, PA ($100,000)
  • Rape & Victim Assistance Center of Schuylkill County, Pottsville, PA ($100,000)
  • Real Commitment, Gettysburg, PA ($100,000)
  • School District of Lancaster, Lancaster, PA ($100,000)
  • School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA ($100,000)
  • Shepherd's Maternity House, Inc, Stroudsburg, PA ($100,000)
  • To Our Children's Future with Health, Inc, Philadelphia, PA ($110,000)
  • Tuscarora Intermediate Unit, McVeytown, PA ($100,000)
  • Urban Family Council, Philadelphia, PA ($360,000)
  • Victim Resource Center, Franklin, PA ($100,000)
  • Washington Hospital Teen Outreach, Washington, PA ($135,000)
  • Women's Care Center, Erie County, Abstinence Advantage, Erie, PA ($135,000)
  • York County Human Life Services, York, PA ($100,000)

References

  1. “Senate Report 109-287-Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2007,” Library of Congress, Thomas, accessed 26 July 2006, <http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/?&item=&&sid=cp109jQHLo&&refer=&
    &r_n=sr287.109&&dbname=cp109&&sid=cp109jQHLo&&sel=TOC_729816&
    >.
  2. Please see this month's policy update Senators Agree for more information.
  3. Please see this month's policy update Senators Agree for more information.
  4. Edward Smith, Jacinda Dariotis, Susan Potter, Evaluation of the Pennsylvania Abstinence Education and Related Services Initiative: 1998-2002 (Philadelphia, PA: Maternal and Child Health Bureau of Family Health, Pennsylvania Department of Health, January 2003): 10, accessed 15 April 2005, <www.dsf.health.state.pa.us/health/lib/health/familyhealth/evaluationpaabstinence
    1998-20021.pdf
    >.
  5. “Senate Report 109-287-Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2007.”

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