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Senate Passes Medical Accuracy Amendment; House Forces It Out in Conference

On October 27, 2005, the United States Senate accepted an amendment by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) spending bill requiring that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs receiving federal funding be medically accurate.  The amendment, offered on the Senate floor by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman of the LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee, on behalf of Mr. Lautenberg, was accepted by unanimous consent.

Similar language was not included in the House version of the spending bill, although over 100 Representatives, led by Representatives Jay Inslee (D-WA), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Jane Harmon (D-CA), and Lois Capps (D-CA), sent a letter to the House and Senate Conferees urging that the amendment remain in the final version of the bill. The letter to Conferees noted that:

While we may differ on how to best educate our nation’s young people to make smart, healthy choices, there should be no disagreement on the fact that our children deserve accurate, honest medical information. As guardians of our taxpayer’s dollars, this is our responsibility.1

On November 14, the Senate and House went into Conference to iron out the differences of each chamber’s LHHS appropriations bill, including the incorporation of the medical accuracy language. Those close to the negotiations reported that Several House Republicans, led by Representatives Dave Weldon (R-FL), Randy Cunningham (R-CA) and Anne Northup (R-KY), refused to cede to the Senate’s inclusion of the medical accuracy amendment and the language was rejected for inclusion in the final LHHS spending bill.

According to a study released by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) in December 2004, many federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula used by community-based organizations contain false, misleading, and distorted information about the risks of sexual activity. Waxman’s report found that of the 13 most commonly used federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula reviewed, 11 contained unproven claims and basic scientific errors.

“Passage of the amendment on the Senate floor was a great step in ensuring that America ‘s young people receive unbiased, factual information,” said William Smith , vice president of public policy at SIECUS. “Those lawmakers in the House who rejected the amendment in Conference should be ashamed that they did not fulfill their obligation to provide our nation’s young people with education that is rooted in accuracy and fact. Instruction regarding sexual health that includes inaccurate or biased information is not only irresponsible but dangerous, leaving our young people at risk for unintended pregnancy and disease,” Smith continued.

To view the Conference report of the FY 2006 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriation bill, please visit


1 Letter from Representative Jay Inslee, Member of Congress, et. al., to Representatives David Obey and Ralph Regula (10 November 2005).