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Congress Loses Its Bearings and Supports Bush’s Request for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs

New York, NY – Yesterday, House and Senate conferees met to consider the Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations bill, and the two chambers sorted out the discrepancies between their respective bills. Disappointingly, lawmakers ignored the Senate’s decision to cut funding for the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) program, and instead followed a disastrous decision in the House of Representatives bill and increased funding for these failed programs by $28 million to $141 million. CBAE funds go directly to some of the most extreme right wing groups in communities across the country and support abstinence-only-until-marriage programs based on the most restrictive guidelines.

"Thanks to genuine and principled leadership by Chairman Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ), the Senate had made the responsible decision to reduce funding for CBAE. Members of the House had an opportunity here to right a major blunder but instead, have opted to support programs that lie to our youth, undermine basic values, and discriminate against many members of our society, such as gays and lesbians," said William Smith, vice president for public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).  “What is worse, the increase matches the Bush administration’s request for this pet program.”

Last year, CBAE grantees received $113 million in federal funding. While the Senate version of the appropriations bill this year reduced funding to $85 million, the House version increased it by an equal amount to $141 million. The version of the bill that came out of the conference committee more closely resembled the House version by increasing CBAE funding to the President’s requested level of $141 million. This money can only be spent on programs that teach abstinence-only-until-marriage and are subject to heavy restrictions. For example, any program that receives CBAE funds has to teach that "sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects." 

"14 states across the country, including California and Wisconsin, have refused abstinence-only-until-marriage funding because there are too many restrictions and the programs don’t work. The American people clearly wish to end this type of right-wing extremism left over from the Gingrich era," continued Smith.

CBAE is one of three federal funding streams for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Combined, these revenue sources have given more than $1 billion in federal funds to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs since their inception. The last two Republican-led sessions of Congress did not increase funding for these initiatives. The $28 million increase proposed under the current bill would be the second largest increase for these programs in history.

“There is much that is good in this bill.  But politics of the worst sort have been employed to try to gain Republican support by funding programs that have been unequivocally shown to be an enormous waste of taxpayer money because they do not work,” said Smith. "When President Bush carries through on his threat to veto this bill, and the votes are not there to override the veto, Congress will have yet another opportunity to do the right thing, and we look forward to working with them to those ends." concluded Smith.

For more information contact Patrick Malone at (212)819-9770 ext. 316 or