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We Interrupt Your Regularly-Scheduled Health Care Debate for A Victory Message on Sex Ed

Allie Bohm,
Policy Counsel,
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December 17, 2009

Today we woke up in a brave new world. Did you know it? I don’t blame you if you didn’t. With health care reform sucking the air out of the room, it’s been hard to pay attention to anything else. But, yesterday, the reproductive freedom movement had a big victory, and it’s time we took a moment to celebrate it. Funding for abstinence-only programs – those “educational” disasters that censor vital healthcare information, promote gender stereotypes, provide inaccurate information, stigmatize lesbian and gay teens, and, in some cases, promote religion in violation of the Constitution – ended with a flick of President Obama’s pen. We’ve been making noise against these programs, which have received more than $1.3 billion during their lifespan, since their inception in 1996.

Still, abstinence-only ended quietly, overshadowed, perhaps, by health care reform, as President Obama signed the FY 2010 Omnibus Appropriations Bill into law. That bill ended funding for the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) program and the abstinence-only program associated with the Adolescent Family Life Act. The Title V abstinence-only program, meanwhile, expired on June 30th. In their place, the Omnibus provides $114 million for the first ever teen pregnancy prevention programs through the new Office of Adolescent Health. It remains to be seen what these programs will look like, but this is a giant step in the right direction, and we need to thank our members of Congress and President Obama for finally doing the right thing and ending abstinence-only.

Of course, the fight is not over. (Is it ever?) The teen pregnancy prevention money is split 75%-25% between rigorously proven programs and innovative possibilities. It is, unfortunately, conceivable that some abstinence-only programs could receive funding through the “possibilities” pot. Moreover, there is a provision currently included in – you guessed it – the Senate health care reform bill that would revive the Title V abstinence program. We must pressure Congress to remove this provision when the House and Senate versions of the health care reform bill are reconciled.

But for now, the abstinence-only nightmare has ended. Please go to our action center and thank your members of Congress and President Obama for putting teenagers’ health above politics and ideology.

And now, back to your regularly-scheduled health care debate.

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