General Articles

Healthy Teen Initiative Passes Committee


July 21, 2009
Statement of SIECUS President and CEO, Joseph DiNorcia Jr., on the Passage of the Healthy Teen Initiative by the House Energy and Commerce Committee
Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed an amendment to add the Healthy Teen Initiative to the proposed healthcare reform legislation that is making its way through Congress.  The amendment will dedicate $50 million in funding to states for evidence-based programs designed to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.  This amendment, introduced by Representative Louis Capps (D-CA) represents the tireless work of the Committee, and we are particularly grateful to Chairman Waxman, Representatives Capps and DeGette, and all of the other members who supported this amendment, for their strong leadership on this issue and dedication to the health and future of young people throughout the country.
Last week, we received news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that some negative health outcomes among young people stemming from sexual risk behaviors are on the rise and progress in other areas is slowing down.  Because of this bad news, the passage of the Healthy Teen Initiative amendment out of Committee comes not a moment too late.  It is far past time that we start addressing the challenges to the health and well being of young people with programs that comprehensively address sexual health and behavior instead of with programs that are ideologically based or narrowly focused.  Thanks to the leadership of the Energy and Commerce Committee, we are one step closer to achieving this goal.
There is still work to be done to make this a reality, however.  While the Healthy Teen Initiative amendment passed by a comfortable margin, another amendment, to extend failed Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding, was defeated by only three votes.  This close vote indicates that supporters of comprehensive sexuality education, both in the advocacy world and in Congress, must continue to stand up to strong resistance and not rest on past achievements. 
We are grateful that House appropriators, led by Chairman David Obey, have, thus far, not included funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and are focusing on evidence-based prevention efforts. We hope that appropriators will follow the lead of the Energy and Commerce Committee in fully funding prevention initiatives that address not only teen pregnancy prevention, but also the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.  Comprehensive sexuality education still has many opponents, and we still have a long way to go before it is available to all young people, but we are extremely grateful for the step that Congress took yesterday and hopeful that Congressional leadership will continue its strong support.