You’ve Got to be Kidding Me

Congressional Quarterly is reporting this morning that Democratic leadership in the House plans on giving abstinence-only-until-marriage programs a $27 million increase.

Lawmakers say the olive branch extended to Republicans increases the likelihood that the bill will pass the House with a veto-proof majority. It also sends a strong signal that Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey, D-Wis., will avoid controversial social policy changes this year in the interest of moving bills.

Controversial social policy change? You’ve got to be kidding me. One can only hope that it’s “opposite day” in the House because from my vantage point the only thing controversial here is pouring more than a billion dollars into programs that fail to provide teens with information on how to protect against unintended pregnancy and STDs in the name of pushing a particular ideological agenda.

The fact that members of Congress could stomach this kind of increase in light of recent events is just mind-boggling. Let’s review, shall we:

    • April 13 a federally commissioned study is released showing that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs don’t work. Teens who participate in these programs are just as likely to have sex as those who don’t, have sex at the same age, and have similar numbers of sexual partners.
    • April 26 the ACLU reproductive freedom notifies the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that several abstinence-only-until-marriage materials violate a federal law requiring certain educational materials to contain medically accurate information about condom effectiveness.
    • May 3 the ACLU asks federal and state agencies to review an Oregon abstinence-only-until-marriage program receiving federal funding that requires its presenters to “possess an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ; possess knowledge of the Word of God, and the ability to communicate it’s [sic] truth; exhibit a loving and merciful spirit; [and] attend a Bible believing local church or fellowship.”
  • One week later, on May 9, 11 ACLU affiliates send letters to HHS alerting the agency to abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula in their states that contain medically inaccurate information and ask the agency to remedy the situation.

Rarely do we at the ACLU come across a problem like abstinence-only-until-marriage that cuts across so many civil liberties issues: censoring information; creating a hostile environment for gay and lesbian teens, reinforcing gender stereotypes, and in some instances using taxpayer dollars to promote religion. But apparently, we haven’t yet trotted out enough evidence that Congress needs to stop funding these programs. What more will it take?