Progressives who were paying attention breathed a sigh of relief and gratitude when President Obama left abstinence-only funding out of the 2010 budget. Finally, we had a more reality-based approach to human sexuality reflected in government policy, or at least, not affront to it. Some people, therefore, hoped that when the Senate Finance Committee okayed Sec. 2954 of the health-reform bill on September 30 it wouldn't survive. But Wednesday, the noxious paragraph was in the final bill that may be voted on this weekend.
SEC. 2954. RESTORATION OF FUNDING FOR ABSTINENCE EDUCATION. Section 510 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 710) is amended (1) in subsection (a), by striking fiscal year 1998 and each subsequent fiscal year and inserting each of fiscal years 2010 through 2014; and (2) in subsection (d) (A) in the first sentence, by striking 1998 through 2003 and inserting 2010 through 2014; and (B) in the second sentence, by inserting (except that such appropriation shall be made on the date of enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the case of fiscal year 2010) before the period.
This addendum to Title V won't bring back all the funding for abstinence-only education. Three-fourths of it came from the Community Based Abstinence Education Grants and the Adolescent Family Life Act. So we're only talking $50 million a year through 2014. Just peanuts in an $849 billion health-reform bill.
So it only matters if you don't like the idea of wasting tax money on misinforming young people with ineffective, ruinous and potentially lethal curricula that are the consequence of politicians pandering to puritanical know-nothings, who not only want to raise their own children in sexual ignorance, but also demand that public schools do likewise to everybody else's. Don't tell kids the real facts of life, fill them with lies about contraception, and pretend their lack of knowledge will lead to a reduction in out-of-wedlock births and other myriad problems associated with sexual naivete. If we don't tell them about fucking, they won't fuck.
The imposition of this syphilis-friendly miseducation didn't originate with Mister Bush. It first arrived on Bill Clinton's watch in 1996 with the Welfare Reform Act. We've had a dozen years of such evidence-free teaching, to the tune of $1.9 billion in taxpayer money. And now we're harvesting what bible-thumping theocrats have sown: higher sexually transmitted diseases, a higher teenage pregnancy rate and a higher teenage birth rate. Not only do teenage women suffer greater health risks from pregnancy than their older sisters, but early child-bearing increases the chances that they will live their lives in poverty and fail to complete secondary or higher education.
After 15 years of decline starting in 1991, the teenage birth rate in the United States rose to 41.9 in 2006, the last year for which statistics are available. That's three times as high as Canada and seven times as high as Denmark, countries with comparable levels of sexual intercourse among teenagers, but with sensible sex education programs and easy access to contraceptives.
None of this matters to Senator Orrin Hatch, who still claims abstinence-only education works. He pushed the amendment and got a pair of Democrats, Blanche Lincoln and Kent Conrad, to join him and the other nine Republicans on the committee in approving it. He would have added a Stupak-like amendment to the Senate bill if he could have found enough support. No surprise since Hatch has a long record of keeping women under control, dating back to his days of opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment.
And that, ultimately, is what it's all about, controlling women. For while males also suffer from propaganda masquerading as sex education, it's girls and women who pay the greater price for this malicious bilge. Ultimately, of course, we all pay, individuals of both sexes and society itself. George Monbiot has a name for these wackos who disavow physical realities: denialogues.
Even though everyone would be better off if we put a match to that $50 million annual grant than let it be spent for abstinence-only miseducation, chances are, unlike Stupak, there won't be a big fight over the amendment. There are so many other issues at hand. So what if the denialogues get to wreck a few thousand more young lives?