Omnibus Spending Bill: Some Wish List Items Plus A Little Coal in Our Stocking

by Diana Rhodes, Director, Public Policy

Late Tuesday night, the long-awaited Omnibus funding bill for FY 2016 was released. Advocates for Youth, along with colleague organizations and activists from across the country, have been urging Congress to stand up for young people and their sexual health.

As a community, we have been pushing back against Congressional efforts to essentially eliminate the Office of Adolescent Health’s (OAH) Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP), as well as urging Congress to NOT increase funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage programs.

And they listened. Kind of.nn

In a victory for the youth sexual health community, the Omnibus funding bill includes level funding of $101 million for TPPP, keeping this essential program at the same funding level as last year. It also included $33.1 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Adolescent School Health (DASH), a $2 million increase over last year’s funding level.

Unfortunately, Congress didn’t hear us when we told them abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) programs withhold lifesaving sexual health information for young people. The Omnibus actually doubles the annual funding for AOUM (or “sexual risk avoidance”) programs to $10 million. Whether they call them abstinence-only-until-marriage or “sexual risk avoidance”, we know these programs are harmful to young people. By denying young people information about contraception and condoms, and refusing to teach the skills they need to protect from unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV, we are ignoring reality and robbing them of skills they will need throughout their lives.

Congress is expected to pass this Omnibus bill, as is. And while we applaud their efforts to protect and expand sexual health education resources for young people through TPPP and DASH funding, we are sorely disappointed in the increases to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

We’d like to see more steps forward without any steps back when it comes to young people’s sexual health.