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House Attempts to Revive Failed Community-Based Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                   CONTACT: Will Neville-Rehben, Advocates for Youth
December 15, 2011                                                         202-419-3420 //
                                                                                        Jen Heitel Yakush, SIECUS
                                                                                        202-265-2405 //
House Attempts to Revive Failed Community-Based Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs
President Obama’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative
Will Receive Funding at Current Levels
Washington, DC – Late last night, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced an appropriations bill that would fund the federal government through the end of Fiscal Year 2012. This bill contains a $5 million earmark that would resurrect funding for discontinued and discredited abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. At a time when Congress is constantly reminding the country of the need to cut unnecessary spending, it is dismaying that politicians would decide to once again waste taxpayers’ money by resurrecting the now-defunct Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) grant program that decades of research has shown to have no effect on teen behavior.
“Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs promote ignorance in the era of HIV and AIDS,” said Debra Hauser, Executive Vice President of Advocates for Youth. “I am shocked that Congress would fund programs that ignore science and teach young people fear, shame, and denial. Parents, medical experts, and young people agree that schools have a responsibility to provide sex education that includes information about both abstinence and contraception.”
The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI), one of President Obama’s signature initiatives to champion evidence-based approaches to health education, would continue to receive funding at its current level of roughly $105 million. This includes $75 million in direct funding for evidence-based programs and $25 million for innovative programs, with the remaining funds covering the cost of program evaluation and administration.
“We are pleased that the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative was left intact; however, it is unconscionable that House Republicans would give the abstinence-only-until-marriage industry a foothold to claw their way back,” said Monica Rodriguez, President and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). “The Community-Based Abstinence Education program was ended for a reason—it is harmful to young people, uses federal dollars to spread misinformation, fear, and shame, and is a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.”
While the initial allocation of $5 million for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs may seem small in context of the overall federal budget, this tactic has been used before. It is much easier to scale up existing funding streams in future fiscal years than to launch a major initiative outright. The Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) program was launched in Fiscal Year 2001 with initial funding of $20 million, but within five years, under the leadership of President Bush, was increased by more than 450% to a total of $113 million where it stayed for two more years.  In a move widely applauded by the medical, scientific, health and education communities, CBAE was finally eliminated by President Obama and Congress  in Fiscal Year 2010 and did not receive funding in Fiscal Year 2011. Failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs received well over half-a-billion dollars through CBAE over the life of the program.  
If enacted as currently written, this appropriations bill would also impact other key sexual and reproductive health programs by:
  • CUTTING $2 million from Title X family planning funding.
  • CUTTING $11 million from the CDC HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Tuberculosis Prevention.
  • BANNING any federal funding for needle exchange programs, both domestically and internationally. (This does not impact state or local needle exchange funds.)
  • BANNING the District of Columbia from using its own dollars to help women access abortion care.
Advocates for Youth is a national organization that promotes programs and advocates for policies that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health.
SIECUS affirms that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human, one that is worthy of dignity and respect. We advocate for the right of all people to accurate information, comprehensive education about sexuality, and sexual health services. SIECUS works to create a world that ensures social justice and sexual rights.