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NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Lawmakers' Letter to Obey Asks That Abstinence-Only Funding Go to More Effective Programs

NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Lawmakers' Letter to Obey Asks That Abstinence-Only Funding Go to More Effective Programs
[April 1, 2008]

Seventy-six House lawmakers, including 75 Democrats and Republican Rep. Chris Shays (Conn.), recently signed a letter to Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, urging him to shift funding for HHS' Community-Based Abstinence Education Program to "more effective programs," such as comprehensive sex education, CQ HealthBeat reports. CBAE, which is funded at $113 million for the current fiscal year, gives grants to groups that promote abstinence until marriage but are prohibited from providing information about the benefits of contraception.

The letter did not suggest specific alternative programs that could be funded, CQ HealthBeat reports. Emily Kryder -- press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), who signed the letter -- said that Capps would prefer to fund the type of comprehensive sex education programs authorized by HR 1653 and HR 819, which contain a variety of measures intended to increase access to contraception and comprehensive sex education. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) -- sponsors of HR 1653 and HR 819, respectively -- also signed the letter.

Capps in an e-mail said, "Abstinence-only education, such as that funded through CBAE, doesn't work and is a waste of our limited financial resources." She added, "We need to give our young people access to accurate information that will enable them to make healthy decisions." Shays said, "The extraordinary number of teen pregnancies and growing rate of sexually transmitted disease transmission among teens underscores the necessity of comprehensive sexual education." He added that children "need a responsible education that includes both abstinence and contraception approaches to pregnancy prevention and sexual health."

Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) also recently sent a letter to Obey that asks for CBAE funding and policy guidelines to be maintained. "Millions of youth will continue to receive education that provides a risk-eliminating advantage gained by abstaining from sexual activity if abstinence education funding is continued," McIntyre and Terry wrote, adding, "This is not a partisan issue" (Grimaldi, CQ HealthBeat, 3/31).