By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 27, 2009 ( – The U.S. House of Representatives Friday voted to eliminate $99 million in grant funds that would have bolstered abstinence education in the U.S.  The House's decision to cut the funds and to approve a new grant towards contraceptive-promoting sex education had been sought by President Obama in his budget recommendations earlier this year. 

House lawmakers voted 264-153 to approve the annual health and education spending bill that cut funding for Community-Based Abstinence Education.  Also according to the Obama recommendations, Congress in late June chose not to renew the smaller abstinence-education funding initiative known as Title V.

Instead, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education and Labor money will be directed to a new $114 million initiative to promote contraceptives and explicit sex education.

Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) dismissed the abstinence program as “discredited and ineffective,” and called the change a “huge, huge step in the right direction to ensure the health of our young teenage girls and boys,” according to a Bloomberg report.

The move met with anger from House Republicans, who point to studies showing that the method has positive results.
“They've dramatically reduced the number of teenage pregnancies,” said Representative Zach Wamp (R-TN), who called the de-funding “clearly a big shift in social policy” and a “big blow to the whole abstinence education movement in this country.”

Democrats reportedly argued that abstinence programs could still apply for federal help under a provision in the bill that allots a total of $25 million for programs that “may not yet have rigorous evaluation demonstrating effectiveness” but “use promising or innovative approaches” to prevent teen pregnancy.

Several commentary outlets have pointed to a report by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released July 16 as proof that President Bush's abstinence programs were ineffective at reducing teen pregnancy. 

The report describes a rise in pregnancy rates among teens in 2006-2007 after a steady decline from 1991-2005.  It also tells of a rise in AIDS cases among males 15-24 years during 1997-2006, and a rise in syphilis infections in the same age group. 

However, the researchers did not include a critique of any sex education methods as part of the study, nor did they mention abstinence education or otherwise attempt to draw conclusions about the cause of the findings. The CDC merely reported the findings as a “slowing” of “improvements in sexual and reproductive health of teens.”

“It is ridiculous to say that a program we nominally invest in has failed when it fails to overcome the most sexualized culture in world history,” Kristi Hamrick, a spokeswoman for the conservative group American Values, told the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper. 

“Education that emphasizes abstinence as the best option for teens makes up a minuscule part of overall sex education in the United States.”

“In every other area of public policy – food, drugs, alcohol – we tell children what is the best choice,” she continued.  “It seems very bizarre that the sex education establishment rejects the idea that we should talk to kids about what is best for them. We don't take vodka to drivers education because children will drink and drive.”

See related articles:

Obama Calls for Condom Funding to Replace Abstinence Education

“Comprehensive” Sex Education is Ineffective: Abstinence Works, Major National Study Shows

Major Study Reveals Overwhelming Bias of “Comprehensive” Sex Education

Abstinence Program Making Huge Impact in Africa: 61 Percent Reduction in Teen Pregnancy

UK Sex-Ed Backfire: Survey Reveals Increased Pregnancy Rates in Teens Subjected to Program