By Vania Leveille, ACLU Legislative Counsel
This week, President Obama signed into law the omnibus appropriations bill that will fund government operations for the rest of fiscal year 2009. Buried in the spending measure and the media blizzard about earmarks is $99 million for the Community Based Abstinence Education program.
Sure, we're glad the program received a $14 million cut — the first ever — but it absolutely boggles the mind that this program still receives any funding at all. In fact, $162 million remains in the budget for abstinence-only-until-marriage funding. Did you catch that? $162 million. Enough already.
For more than a decade, Congress has spent more than a billion taxpayer dollars on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs despite busloads of evidence that they don't work and pleas from the scientific and public health community to stop, stop, stop!
We know that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs censor information that can help young people make responsible, healthy, and safe decisions about relationships and sexual activity. We know they reinforce gender stereotypes, marginalize LGBT youth, and provide inaccurate and misleading information. And yet, the money keeps flowing.
Enough already. Seriously. Enough. It's time to put scientific integrity and the real needs of teenagers ahead of narrow, ideological agendas.
So even though we took a good, albeit shamefully small, step in the right direction, we'll take a big leap forward if President Obama allocates zero dollars for abstinence-only programs in his 2010 fiscal year budget recommendation to Congress expected in April 2009. And the ACLU has asked him to do that. We've pointed out to President Obama that continuing to fund abstinence-only programs is inconsistent with statements he's made during the campaign and in the early weeks of his presidency.
Now President Obama needs to hear from you. We may lose tremendous momentum in the fight against abstinence-only programs if President Obama's 2010 fiscal year budget includes funds for these programs. Your voice will make a difference! Send President Obama an email today asking him to defund abstinence-only programs. Tell your family, friends, neighbors, teenagers to email too. We need to let President Obama know that it's enough already.