Conservatives squeeze $250 million abstinence-only extension into health reform bill

Reverend Dr. Carlton W. Veazey, head of the national Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, is drawing attention to the fact that social-conservative lawmakers have levied into the health reform bill Congress is looking to pass this week a $250 million extension of the failed “abstinence-only” sex ed program that pays schools to not teach basics on how to successfully avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Veazey’s Coalition is asking supporters to call Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and tell them that “Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs ARE NOT health care reform!”

abstinence

Last fall, conservatives in Congress managed to include funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in the Senate health care reform bill. Currently, an extension for the failed Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage state grant program remains in the Senate bill that will serve as the vehicle for the final health care package. The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program expired in June 2009 and had not been renewed by Congress. The extension in the Senate health care reform bill equals $250 million for failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs over the next five years.

But it’s not too late for Congress to take action! Tell Congress to remove Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding from health care reform.

Advocates of abstinence-only programs argue that teaching birth control and safe sex leads young people to have more sex. They point to a recent study of one abstinence-only program where kids waited longer to have sex than did kids who had comprehensive sex ed training. Detractors say that the abstinence-only program in the study was not representative, however, because it didn’t attempt to teach morality, it only encouraged children to delay sex until they were ready, saying nothing of waiting till marriage and did not disparage use of contraceptives.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains spokesperson Monica McCafferty said her organizations was aware of the move to extend abstinence-only education and was working to strip out the program. She said her organization is a coalition partner with Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance, which reportedly sent out an email on the abstinence-only extension today.

“We are for comprehensive sex ed. Abstinence-only programs fail. Teen pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted disease rates shot up where these programs were put into place. Obama has said he wanted the budget for sex ed to go to evidence-based programs and we would hope this health care bill would support that approach.”

McCafferty told the Colorado Independent that right now Planned Parenthood has no supporter-campaign in place to contact the Colorado delegation or Pelosi and Reid about the $250 million extension but strongly supports the efforts of the Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance effort.

“Clearly, health-care reform legislation has been a huge focus for Planned Parenthood. We are working hard to ensure women continue to enjoy the full range of reproductive health care options. Comprehensive sex ed is part of our focus.”

McCafferty said Planned Parenthood has been in regular contact with the Colorado delegation over the past months as the reform bill has moved through its various stages.

“We have a lot of contact with them and I would look for them to support us on [defeating] the abstinence-only sex ed extension as well.

“We are confident that the Democratic members of the Colorado delegation support teen-pregnancy prevention programs that take an evidence-based and medically accurate approach.”

What about Republican Congressmen Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn?

“I can’t speak to the Republican members. I wouldn’t put words in their mouths.”

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About the Author

John Tomasic

Writer, editor, teacher, web wrangler. He has worked for art, business, culture, politics publications, five universities and a UN war crimes commission. @johntomasic
jtomasic@coloradoindependent.com | 720-432-2128 |

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