Senate Finance Committee Votes to Restore Abstinence-Only Education

This week the Senate Finance Committee voted to reinstate funding for abstinence-only education. The committee adopted an amendment put forward by Orrin Hatch to restore $50 million a year in funding for it.

Despite protests from committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), the Senate Finance Committee voted 12-11 in favor of it. Two Democrats—Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas—joined all 10 committee Republicans in voting “yes” on the measure.

“Abstinence education works,” Hatch said in a statement. But it doesn’t. Congress’s own research has proven doesn’t work.

“A 2007 study ordered by Congress found that middle school students who had received abstinence-only education were just as likely to have sex as teenagers as those who had not,” Jessica Valenti writes in her latest book, The Purity Myth. “The same report showed that teens who had taken abstinence classes were more likely to say that condoms were ineffective in protecting people against sexually transmitted infections.”

Moreover, girls who receive comprehensive sex education were 50 percent less likely to become pregnant than those who receive abstinence-only education, according to a 2007 a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Hatch’s amendment would still have to pass the full House and Senate. Obama redirected funding from abstinence-only education to broader teen pregnancy-reduction programs in his 2010 budget.

“An alternate measure offered by Baucus also passed. Baucus’ measure, which passed 14-9, would make money available for education on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases, among other things, in addition to abstinence,” reports AP. “Lawmakers will have to reconcile the two measures, both approved during debate on a sweeping health overhaul bill, as the legislation moves forward.”

This amendment was not the only one that Orrin Hatch put forward to the Senate Finance Committee. Hatch Amendment F-7 would add “transition relief for the excise tax on high-cost insurance plans for any state with a name that begins with the letter ‘U.’ ” Dana Millbank of The Washington Post writes, “There’s only one state that begins with the letter U, and that’s Utah, home state of the amendment’s sponsor, Sen. Orrin Hatch. He wanted to send a message that the Democrats were being ‘arbitrary.’ ”

Hatch can now go on Sesame Street and discuss the letter U—and the concept of pettiness.