Senate Committee Votes To End Funding For Failed Abstinence-Only Programs

July 30, 2009 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The Senate Appropriations Committee today voted to end funding for failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and to put resources into programs that can help teens make healthy and responsible decisions about sexuality.

"After more than a decade, Congress has finally begun to put teenagers' health above politics and ideology. By removing funding from abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, the Senate Appropriations Committee showed its willingness to put an end to a sorry chapter in our public health policymaking," said Michael Macleod-Ball, acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The Committee's actions represent a looming victory for young people, parents and advocates of science-based approaches."

Today's vote comes on the heels of an equally significant vote in the House of Representatives. Last week, under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. David Obey (D-WI), that chamber approved a spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services that also eliminated funding for current abstinence-only programs. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate Appropriations Committee instead supported the president's proposal for a teen pregnancy prevention initiative to fund evidence-based programs shown to positively affect teen behavior.

"Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii should be commended for moving the Senate in this new direction. We are pleased that the Committee has joined President Obama in rejecting ideologically based abstinence-only programs that censor information, promote gender stereotypes, marginalize gay and lesbian youth and jeopardize the well-being of young people," said Vania Leveille, ACLU Legislative Counsel. "The federal government has an obligation to support programs that provide accurate, age-appropriate information that can protect teenagers' health and ability to achieve in school and beyond."

The spending measure next goes to the Senate floor, where misguided efforts to reinsert funding for abstinence-only programs are possible. A vote by the full Senate is not expected until the fall.

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