Beyond Shame: Democrats Sell Out Youth

Today, the House Democrats will waltz into the mark-up of the Labor HHS Subcommittee and proudly present a bill that puts their stamp of approval on domestic abstinence-only-until-marriage programs—an ideological boondoggle that threatens the health and well-being of America's youth.

The most appalling aspect of this sell-out is that that the Democrats will not only fully fund the worst of the failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs—they'll give them a $27 million increase—the first in three years!

Shame on Congressman David Obey for brokering this "deal;" shame on Congresswoman Nita Lowey for agreeing to it; and shame on those other Democrats on the Appropriations Committee who have already promised not to offer any amendment that would cut funding for abstinence-only programs and thus "upset" the deal.

In one inglorious motion, the Democrats have sold the health and well-being of young people down the proverbial drain, delivered a public slap in the face to evidence-based public health, and made a mockery of their "prevention first" message.

Consider this irony. The first domestic policy the Democrats will endorse on the prevention front will be to fund abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for young people up to the age of 29! Good work, gang. You make me proud to be a Democrat—NOT!

And consider this second irony. The Democrats will now become one of the largest funders of an ultra-conservative network that is clearly hostile to its policies and candidates (See an in-depth article in The Nation.)

The funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs represents the worst of cynical, "inside-the-beltway" deal-making. Whose interests were protected at the expense of young people's health and lives? Whose politics were advanced by including this "sweetener" for conservatives in an appropriations bill threatened with a Presidential veto? Inquiring minds would like to know.

Now is the time for advocates to hold these Democrats accountable. It would be the height of hypocrisy to go mute when this kind of damage is done to young people because "our friends" are in power.

We cannot afford to play the "never mind" game.

Never mind the Society of Adolescent Medicine report that stated abstinence-only programs "threaten fundamental human rights to health, information and life"; never mind the congressionally-mandated Mathematica study released in April showing that abstinence-only programs simply do not work; never mind the research showing that young people who take "virginity pledges" are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. Should we really ignore it all because these Democrats are "our friends" and we shouldn't publicly criticize our "friends?"

To hell with that! Over the next few weeks we need to mount a campaign to reverse this policy even if it means publicly dinging our "friends." After all, with friends like these, who needs conservative Republicans?

I urge everyone to take action. Tell the Democratic leadership that it is time to END funding for failed abstinence-only programs today!

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  • invalid-0

    June 6, 2007 – 10:24 p.m.

    Democrats Plan to Use Abstinence Funds as Leverage to Break Bush’s Budget

    By Drew Armstrong and Jonathan Allen, CQ Staff

    House Democrats plan to give President Bush the hefty increase in abstinence-only education spending he requested for fiscal 2008 — even as they prepare to let a mandatory abstinence initiative expire.

    Democrats hope the extra money for abstinence education will give them leverage — namely Republican allies in Congress — in fights to come with Bush’s over domestic spending. A draft fiscal 2008 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill has been allocated $151.1 billion in discretionary spending — about $10 billion more than Bush requested.

    The Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee is scheduled to mark up the bill Thursday; Democratic lawmakers and aides were briefed on its contents Wednesday.

    Bush had requested $137 million for the abstinence-only program, a $28 million boost compared with the $109 million allocated for fiscal 2007 (PL 110-5). But even such a small pot of money carries outsized political significance, particularly in light of Democratic leaders’ decision to let the authorization for mandatory “Title V” abstinence-only grants expire at the end of June.

    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.

    Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, a former chairman of the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, said Obey “balanced that [funding] out with an equal amount to Planned Parenthood.”

    The administration has said the president will veto spending bills that exceed his request, but Bush may not have the votes in Congress to back up his threat. “When it leaves the House, it may leave with insufficient ‘no’ votes to sustain a veto,” said subcommittee member Dave Weldon, R-Fla., who supports abstinence-only education.

    The abstinence program money could also provide political cover to centrist Democrats made vulnerable to conservatives’ attacks by their leadership’s decision to let the mandatory pool dry up.

    Liberal Democrats said they could live with compromising on abstinence-only education, which they generally oppose, if it means paving the way for more spending on domestic programs they favor.

    “That’s a reasonable concession in light of the more than $10 billion” the bill contains in excess of Bush’s budget request, said Jesse L. Jackson Jr., D-Ill.

    Spending Cap ‘Adjustments’
    This time around, the bill — the largest and typically most contentious annual domestic spending measure — might have an easier time getting through because it doesn’t carry controversial changes on social policy issues that have stalemated progress before.

    The subcommittee is expected to exceed the bill’s $151.1 billion discretionary spending allocation by about $636 million through “cap adjustments” allowed under the fiscal 2008 budget resolution (S Con Res 21). Those include $383 million for the Health and Human Services Department to fight health care fraud and abuse, $213 million for Social Security Administration disability reviews and redeterminations, and $40 million for Labor Department reviews of unemployment insurance payments.

    The total compares with $144.5 billion appropriated last year.

    Some subcommittee Republicans praised Obey’s work on the bill, although several said they had not yet seen a final copy.

    “Dave is a very pragmatic guy,” said James T. Walsh, R-N.Y.

    “Based on what I know, I think he’s done a pretty good job,” Walsh added. “The only gripe I think Republicans might have is that it’s too much money,” referring to the bill’s 4.6 percent increase in spending from fiscal 2007. But he noted that “a lot of these guys are from very rural areas that need the money.”

    “The overall spending level doesn’t really bother me that much,” said panel member Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. “There are some areas that need some more funding.”

    Specifically, Simpson pointed to the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Both are popular institutions that many lawmakers say have not received needed funds in recent years.

    A spokesman for Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., said that Pell grants, which support higher education funding for low-income students, are also likely to receive a funding boost. Democrats might also increase funding for special education programs or for schools with higher proportions of low-income students. Republicans on the committee said they would like to see more funding for charter schools and teacher incentives.

    Michael Teitelbaum contributed to this story.

  • invalid-0

    The Dems are saying, look at the larger picture. Okay, let’s do that.

    More Pell Grants. Wonderful. Please be sure to include supplementary funding for HIV medications for the young people acquiring HIV thanks to the increase in programs that deny them information to protect themselves.

    More money for NIH? Great. Please be sure to set aside several million to once again do yet another study showing ab-only programs do not work and the federal government should not be funding them.

    Those close to the negotiations say the same desired outcome in the news story could have been achieved by flat funding the programs. There is no “reason” for this increase except that Mr. Obey is a schmuck and Mrs. Pelosi has shown herself unfit to be a champion of women and youth. What happened to her? She was once the champion of HIV/AIDS given her district and now, she has signed off on a bill that not only fails to fully fund HIV, but instead, uses that money to increase programs that are opposed by every HIV/AIDS organization in this country.

    So, when we have a President Romney and the Dems lose thier leadership in the Congress, let’s be sure we point the finger for the loss directly back at the same idiots who think complicity in supporting Bush’s culture war is a good game plan. And when we finally lose the right to choose because the next generation of Americans were reared on programs that Democrats supported and that teach them abortion is murder, lets be sure we hang that around their necks as well.

  • invalid-0

    From the CQ Piece:

    Liberal Democrats said they could live with compromising on abstinence-only education, which they generally oppose, if it means paving the way for more spending on domestic programs they favor. “That’s a reasonable concession in light of the more than $10 billion” the bill contains in excess of Bush’s budget request, said Jesse L. Jackson Jr., D-Ill.

    To: “Scarlet Letter” A, aka “A is for Appeaser” who posted the CQ article, these “reasonable concessions” and “reasons” are a joke …. we all get that politics is the art of compromise, but the compromise in this case is not INCREASED funding for abstinence-ONLY, rather it should be continued emphasis on abstinence education within the context of comprehensive sexuality education — because that actually WORKS. Dems are in the majority because people got tired of the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, the incompetence and the abuse of the privilege that comes with power. You don’t compromise on programs that have been proven not to work, you compromise by allocating funds to programs that do work and tell the ab-ONLY crowd they they should focus on teaching abstinece within proven programs and be glad they aren’t in jail after the ethical abuses they’ve perpetrated. Dems are dealing with the Devil himself on this, and the funds are going to be used to target weak Dems REGARDLESS of how much money you throw at these people. The Dems are funding one tool in the conservative political machinary that will be used to turn them back into a the spineless minority that they are recreating as a spineless majority.

  • invalid-0

    Abstinence only is reckless endangerment, especially of minor children. It PREVENTS sex education and “best practices” of science. Parents could always opt out of sex ed if they chose to keep their child stupid. But the child KNEW they were uninformed and could seek facts to save their lives. The NCLB is supposed to reward programs which WORK.
    It is unconstitutional “establishment” of one religious viewpoint which cannot and should not be financed by tax dollars. Shameless thieves dressed up as religionists are stealing tax dollars and harming kids. If you don’t want abortion — stop the two faced support for keeping birth control (which is often also deadly disease prevention) SECRET by law. IMHO votes for this make you co-conspirator in every death from disease or dangerous teen childbirth and/or abortion.

  • invalid-0

    It indeed feels like a Judas movement. But, James, we’ve been doing this work long enough to remember that it was the Clinton administration that brought us welfare reform, “don’t ask, don’t tell”, and abstinence-only in the first place.

    How sad to once again see political compromise on the bodies and futures of our nation’s young people.

    See more on my blog at

    Rev. Debra W. Haffner

  • invalid-0

    There is no question: abstinence education is an attempt to insert religious ideology into America’s public schools. Over and over again, narrow religious interest groups seek to impose their Biblical interpretations to justify religiously-based sex-education programs. For example, Focus on the Family asserts that “The Bible states repeatedly that sex outside one-man-one-woman marriage is dangerous and unacceptable.” While respecting peoples personal religious beliefs, public schools need to practice academic integrity, and teach public health grounded in public health, not religion.

    The facts are that abstinence-only education programs don’t work. According to Planned Parenthood, “88 percent of students who pledged virginity in middle school and high school still engage in premarital sex.” Furthermore, abstinence-only programs leave students in ignorance, increasing their risks for contracting life-threatening STDs like HIV/AIDS. Teens deserve comprehensive and accurate sex-education that provides the information they need to be safest and stay healthiest. In addition to depriving teens about essential health information, abstinence-only programs dangerously assume a heterosexual relationship, and further potentially damaging stereotypes about men and women.

    Abstinence-only education programs demonstrate the dangers of blending religious ideology with publicly-funded programs. Public schools must give our children the best possible education, without preferring one religious tradition over others. American Tax dollars should go to education that teaches health and safety, not religious ideology.

    To learn more and sign the coolest petition on this issue and others you may care about, visit

  • invalid-0

    I don’t have time to go into detail on this, but first of all let me assure you that I am a good Democrat. I also happen to work with youth – extensively. And I have learned from these youth, much to my surprise, that they are really into abstinence education.

    Kids know all about condoms and contraceptives. Believe me, they know. What they are really hungry for is information on what sexual activity can do to them emotionally, and about building proper relationships. They want to be happy in life, have strong self-esteem, a successful marriage, and they want to be sure they don’t get STD’s (which condoms can’t guarantee, according to the Centers for Disease Control). It’s a health issue – both physical and emotional health. And it’s not about religion.

    I have trained youth in abstinence, and I have found that they are very eager to hear the message so that they can make the choices that they are the most comfortable with. And religion NEVER comes up.

    There are some abstinence curricula that are excellent, and probably some that leave something to be desired, as is the case with anything else. Survey results can also be distorted. I have seen research both pro and con regarding abstinence education that I think are both poorly done. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

    But please, please – if you truly advocate for youth, support funding for programs that youth are hungry for and need to make choices that will help to shape their futures. It’s about the kids, not politics.

  • invalid-0

    People who promote anti-science programs are not good Democrats, and in your case, I have to assume that you aren’t any sort of Democrat at all.

    You’re just another wingnut trying to keep your rice bowl full at our expense. Whether you’re doing this for an astroturfing PR firm or because you work for an “abstinence-only” program intended to endanger children for profit is immaterial here, you’re busted and you’re outed.

  • invalid-0

    and wasted a couple of minutes.

    If you guys are paying for capwiz to get e-mail to politicians, you’re wasting your money. Politician staffers treat this kind of mail as spam.

    Look at capwiz’s rates for FAXING to Congresspeople.

  • invalid-0

    Exactly! The point is that medically accurate, fact based sexuality education (for which there is majority support among parents in this country) is NOT about teaching contraception, family planning and HIV/STI prevention to the exclusion of abstinence. If you work so extensively with young people, surely you know this.

    I worked with middle and high schoolers giving free sex-ed presentations and I learned just the opposite. There is absolutely NOT wide spread knowledge of how contraception works, how to access, how their own bodies work. Not at all. Now, there was a huge discrepancy between those students in private schools in upper middle class areas and those students in the lower income areas of our city.

    Despite this, the point again is NOT that comprehensive sexuality education excludes abstinence as a method or that it disregards teaching youth how to navigate healthy relationships. It’s just the opposite. I have never seen an abstinence-only curriculum that teaches young people how to have healthy relationships because it’s predicated on the idea that you must abstain and if you don’t -well, you’re on your own.