There is a lot to dislike about the 1,600-page, $1 trillion spending package up for a vote in Congress today, but one of its most obviously counterproductive provisions may be the new pathway for states to access a new stash of federal funding if they implement criteria for abstinence-only sex ed (a phrase that should be commonly recognized as an oxymoron).
From Dana Liebelson at the Huffington Post:
The legislation specifies that states become eligible for the money if they agree to teach that "abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy" and "a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity," among other criteria.
The money will come out of the leftovers of the annual $50 million in matching funds allocated by welfare reform provisions in 1996 to states that meet strict requirements for abstinence education (they are not permitted to discuss actual contraceptive methods except to highlight their failures). In the past, unused funds have been allocated elsewhere, presumably to programs that have a better chance of working; now, they will be reserved for states who are willing to sacrifice their population in the interest of extra cash.
Abstinence-only sex-ed has been proven for many years to do nothing so much as get teens pregnant quicker, and the billions spent on this public health failure have been called "an ideological boondoggle of historic proportions," and yet, here we are, in 2014, not only continuing to fund "abstinence" but doubling down on our mistakes.
The spending bill otherwise contains at-best-stasis on reproductive rights (the Hyde Amendment stands, as do the prohibitions on abortion funding for federal prisoners) and directives that will put abortion care under higher official scrutiny by the Department of Health and Human Services. It allocates funds for most federal government operations through September, with the exception of Homeland Security, which is funded only through February as per the desires of Republicans who oppose Obama's executive action on immigration; its $521 billion defense package includes pay raises for the military and a new $64 billion in "Overseas Contingency Operations."
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