Senate Finance Committee nixes public option, shells out for abstinence-only education
I have never wished more passionately that there was such a thing as “opposite day” as last night, when I read that not only had the Senate Finance Committee rejected a public health care option, they actually shelled out $50 million a year for abstinence-only sex education, over the vehement protests of the committee’s chairman, Max Baucus. President Obama cut spending for abstinence-only education in May, and this new measure shows just how deeply some lawmakers misunderstand the origins of the healthcare crisis. How can we bemoan the costs of a public health care plan that would give insurance to 44 million Americans, while throwing money at a program that will actually tax the system further?
To put it more plainly: abstinence-only sex education costs us money. In Texas, of all places, schools are moving away from abstinence-only education because of their skyrocketing teen pregnancy rates (incidentally, it also leads the nation in terms of money spent on abstinence-only programs). Instead, they are funding something called “abstinence-plus” education, which emphasizes abstinence as a healthy choice, but encourages teens to use protection if they do engage in sexual activity.
The negative effects of abstinence-only education are far-reaching, and there are few who will defend it outside a small and vocal minority. Dr. Margaret Blythe of the American Academy of Pediatrics told a House committee in 2008 that “Those adolescents who choose to abstain from sexual intercourse should obviously be encouraged and supported in their decisions by their families, peers and communities. But abstinence should not be the only strategy that is discussed.”
Needless to say, what’s happening in Congress right now is very depressing. Obama is essentially hanging pro-choice Democrats out to dry by telling them to “work out” issues over reproductive health care coverage with anti-choice Democrats (apparently using federal subsidies so that lower-income women can access abortion violates the country’s moral foundation, and people don’t want their tax dollars going to abortion coverage. This is very arrogant, considering that I personally oppose the death penalty, but my tax dollars still pay for lethal injections). The public option is pretty much out the window, and now this? Baucus did manage to pass another measure, one that “would make money available for education on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases, among other things, in addition to abstinence.” Let’s only hope that sanity returns to the Senate when they are forced to reconcile the two measures.
Photo courtesy of http://steynian.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/abstinence_01-743137.jpg.