Health Politics

Senate Passes Compromise Bill Increasing Federal Funding for Abstinence-Only Sex Education

The Senate overwhelmingly approved of HR 2 on Tuesday, a $200 billion package that included an enormous increase of federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) curricula.

"Sex ed without fear!" via uncoolbob
“Sex ed without fear!” via uncoolbob

The US Senate voted 92-8 to pass HR 2, which has been known as the “doc fix” for Medicaid reimbursement rates, as well as many other health care provisions. HR 2 includes an alarmingly high increase in funding for the AOUM program, bringing its annual funding to $75 million. President Obama has already agreed to sign the bill, saying in a statement that he “would be proud to sign it into law.”

This compromise bill, however, also includes a two-year extension of Title V abstinence-only education, allocating significant federal funding to Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). Many CPCs lie to women about abortion and birth control and target women who are facing unplanned pregnancies and provide them with medical misinformation. AOUM curriculums rely heavily on shame and stigma, and have been proven to be unsuccessful at preventing unplanned pregnancy and the spread of STIs.

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) wrote of the expansion of AOUM, stating that SIECUS is “incredibly disappointed by this wasteful increase and expansion of AOUM programs that are ineffective, stigmatizing, and fail to provide young people with the sexual health information, education, and skills they need throughout their life to make healthy and responsible decisions.”

One of the policy rider provisions in HR 2 now also demands that unobligated Title V AOUM funds be made available to states implementing programs that adhere abstinence-only education, as opposed to returning these funds to the general treasury, as was the case before this provision.

As the bill was a compromise, HR 2 included a two-year extension of the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), at the current funding level of $75 annually. PREP is a science-based curriculum that covers subjects such as “healthy relationships, adolescent development, financial literacy, educational and career success, and healthy life skills.” Introduced as part of the Affordable Care Act, PREP was the first federally-funded program that teaches both abstinence and contraceptive use as a means of preventing unplanned pregnancies and the spread of STIs.

Media Resources: Congress.gov; The Hill 4/14/15; Feminist Newswire 11/11/13; SIECUS.org; AdvocatesForYouth.org

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