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May 7, 2009
Barack Obama just released the numbers for his new 2010 budget, and while everything in it isn’t peachy, I have some great news for you:
Abstinence-only funding has been ELIMINATED.
Community Based Abstinence Education funding is GONE.
Title V abstinence-only funding is GONE.
Not only are all of the abstinence-only funds eliminated, but $173 million dollars will now be going to teen pregnancy prevention programs around the country that don’t have to adhere to the ridiculous standards that were there before.
While we can celebrate this news for now, we aren’t quite out of the woods yet. A door is still open for Congress to sneak these funds back in if we don’t put enough pressure on them.
Of the $110 million that are going to state-based teen pregnancy prevention programs, 75% are going to “evidence-based” programs, while 25% are going “new models” which aren’t explicitly defined. The danger here is that Congress might still try to slip abstinence-only programs into the budget during the appropriations process. David Obey, the Democratic chair of the Appropriations Committee, has tried to increase funding for abstinence-only programs in the past, and we need to make sure that he and his colleagues don’t allow this to happen now.
Another aspect of the budget that is troubling is that President Obama really missed an opportunity to set up a dedicated funding stream for comprehensive sex education. All $173 million dollars are going to “teen pregnancy prevention”, with none going explicitly to comprehensive sex education that includes teen HIV and STI prevention. While comprehensive sex education programs could fall under the new state-based programs, they will have to come in through the door of teen pregnancy, so to speak, which could make it more difficult. This lack of inclusion of HIV and STI’s is disappointing, as truly comprehensive sex ed cannot ignore this problem.
Despite these aspects, we should all sit back for a moment and just grasp how far we have come. A decade of $1.5 billion in ineffective and harmful abstinence-only funding has just been halted right in its tracks. President Obama’s actions today have shown the way forward for sex education in this country, and sent a clear message that the era of abstinence-only funding is OVER. And for that, we should celebrate and be very thankful.
But, this fight is not over. We must continue to pressure all of Congress, especially Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Obey, and let them know that Obama’s call for a new direction in sex education in America must be answered. We’ve come a long, long way, and we’re almost there, so let’s make sure that Congress finishes what President Obama started!