House of Representatives Approves Increase in Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding, Well Below President's Request

Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs received an increase of only $11 million on June 23rd when the full United State House of Representatives passed the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education spending bill, by a vote of 250-151. The spending bill includes two accounts for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs: the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) grant program and the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA). The entire $11 million increase went to the CBAE account-for total funding of $115 million-while AFLA (which is part of Title XX) was flat-funded at $13 million. Including Title V funding, authorized separately under welfare reform, the total funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for FY '06 is now set at $179 million. The $11 million increase is significantly lower than the President's FY'06 budget request which proposed increasing funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs by $38.6 million to a total of $206 million.

Nonetheless, proponents of comprehensive sexuality education are standing by their request for no new money for these unproven programs. Prior to the hearing on the bill, over 215 organizations sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee members expressing their strong opposition to any increase in funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. The letter's goal was to urge Representatives to "spend no new money on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs."

William Smith, SIECUS' vice president for public policy said, "While we are pleased that the funding increase was considerably below the President's request, given the current fiscal environment and the overwhelming evidence from across the country that these programs contain misleading and potentially harmful information, I believe it is both fiscally irresponsible and harmful to our young people to approve any increase."

The budgets for Title X and the Ryan White Care Act were decided under the same bill. The Ryan White CARE Act funds a variety of health and social programs across the country for those living with HIV and AIDS. It received a minimal increase of $10 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). Otherwise, the CARE Act was flat-funded. The Title X family planning program which provides primary health care as well as family planning services to millions of women was flat-funded at $286 million.

Advocates for people living with HIV/AIDS as well as advocates for reproductive health care were disappointed with these funding levels. Given the rising cost of prescription drugs and the fact that there are already hundreds of people living with HIV and AIDS on waiting lists across the country, a $10 million increase to ADAP is not nearly enough. In addition, Title X providers are facing rising costs of services and state budgets cuts and are sorely in need of increased federal funding.

The Senate Labor-HHS subcommittee is expected to review the Labor-HHS bill on July 12th leading to a full review of the bill by the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 14th.

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