This morning, the National Abstinence Education Association is holding its annual Capitol Hill Lobby Day. They will have meetings all day with legislators on the Hill, asking them to continue funding their abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Yes, this is despite the fact that study after independent study has shown abstinence-only programs to be ineffective, and that $1.5 billion of our taxes have already been thrown into this failure.
These programs have been nothing short of a national embarrassment over the past decade. We have a subsidized curriculum that gives factual errors, gross misrepresentation of condom effectiveness, proselytizing, anti-abortion propaganda, and harmful gender stereotypes to students. Not to mention Abstinence Clowns and advice to kids not to believe rape victims if they have a “reputation” (i.e., not a virgin).
And what do we have to show for this? One of the highest rates of teenage births and STI’s among all industrialized nations. Abstinence-only education has not only been a colossal failure, it has been a horrible bargain.
Even with a new president who speaks favorably about comprehensive sex education, and a Democratic Congress lead by someone who has publicly spoken out about the need to transition away from abstinence-only education, we face a situation today that does not guarantee that these ineffective programs will finally be defunded.
President Obama is currently finalizing the details of his 2010 fiscal year budget, and these are the possible outcomes we could see when it is released:
President Obama eliminates all abstinence-only funding (right on!)
President Obama leaves in all abstinence-only funding (major disaster)
President Obama makes some cuts, but leaves in some abstinence-only funding
Even in the best case scenario, where Obama cuts all or most abstinence-only funding, this does not necessarily lead us out of the woods. Many in Congress would certainly try to sneak ab-only funding back in through the appropriations process. This is a serious possibility, due to the fact that Rep. David Obey (D-WI) chairs the House Appropriations Committee and actually tried to increase ab-only funding in 2007. Furthermore, in 2008 he continued to ignore the recommendations of his fellow Democrats to cut its funding. In the annals of abstinence-only education, it would not be an exaggeration to call David Obey one of its greatest champions and allies.
This is where you come in: the progressive blogosphere, the reproductive justice community, and youth advocates. We have to make sure that the NAEA’s message is not the only side of the story that Congress hears tomorrow. For every lobbyist that a representative gets in their office tomorrow morning, we need 100 letters from our side to counter them.