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Abstinence only? Again? Seriously?

Not to be overly dramatic, but it made me sick to read that Orrin Hatch was able to get an amendment added to the finance committee’s health care legislation that restores $50 million in funding for abstinence-only education that Obama had previously eliminated. Seriously? Abstinence-only funding passing in a bipartisan committee charged with reforming health care? The¬†American Psychological Association has asserted for years that abstinence-only education is not the best way to reduce teen pregnancies, abortions, and sexually transmitted disease. Obama made campaign promises, and followed through on them, to remove the federal funding enthusiastically granted by the Bush administration. Yet, here we go again.

In a lovely coincidence, this unwelcome piece of ass-backwardness legislation was approved the day before a newspaper in Austin, Texas, published an article outlining many of its area school districts’ plans to move away from abstinence-only education. These changes are due both to the program’s inefficiency and waning funding under the Obama administration. As the article noted, “More government money has been spent on the cause of sexual abstinence in Texas than any other state, but it still has the third-highest teen birth rate in the country and the highest percentage of teen mothers giving birth more than once.” George W. Bush’s home state is getting the message: abstinence-only doesn’t work.

After years of ineffective sex education, even red-state Texas is coming to its senses. Yet the Senate finance committee currently responsible for crafting health care reform legislation thinks this sex-education program is the right way to go. I’ll say it again – seriously?¬†Prior to reading this news, I was losing hope that any real health care reform would happen. Now, I’m feeling especially frustrated and angry! This is a ridiculous sign of where our legislators stand. If these leaders are so conservative in their personal or political values that they ignore relevant statistics and expert recommendations, and push for abstinence-only education, what chance do we have that they will come up with a satisfactorily progressive health care bill? It wasn’t even just the Republicans on the committee who voted for this amendment – though all nine of them did – but two of the committee’s Democrats joined their side as well. Thanks, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, for your spirit of compromise – you’ve compromised the health and well-being of your youngest constituents. Keep up the good work.

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