Disappointing House funding bill disregards youth sexual health
Advocates for Youth is troubled by the appropriations bill that heads to subcommittee markup today which would remove funding to vital adolescent health programs. The House Appropriations Committee released the draft yesterday of the Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill for fiscal year 2017, and we were shocked by the blatant disregard for young people’s sexual health. The bill is a renewed attack on sexual health education and services that young people need.
The bill removes all funding for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs (TPPP), which provide crucial support to state and local programs including comprehensive sex education. This is starkly inconsistent with the $101 million allocated by the Senate bill, still far less than the $130 million advocates have requested. Instead, yesterday’s House bill allocates $20 million (a 100% increase!) to harmful abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) programs, now thinly disguised as “sexual risk avoidance” programs. We know – and research shows – that young people thrive when they have the resources and tools that they need to make healthy, informed decisions. These tools and resources are not provided through discriminatory and stigmatizing AOUM programs. Additionally, the draft bill removes all funding from Title X family planning programs, and includes insidious anti-abortion provisions. Also disappointingly, among other elements, the funding streams for the Department of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) and the Minority AIDS Initiative remain flat-funded at levels below current need. We are nevertheless optimistic that our champions in the House, will be successful in their efforts to amend the bill today to reincorporate these much-needed funding streams. But we remain shocked and concerned by the deep disregard that this Congress has shown for the health and rights of young people.
We know that this is not the end of the budget battle for youth sexual health promotion, but we do know this just another Congressional hurdle as we continue to fight for young people’s access to the education and services they deserve. We know that Congress can do better and we demand that they do.