The Senate Finance Committee voted to restore $50 million a year in federal funding for abstinence-only education. One abstinence ed supporter said the action was a victory for “the hard work of grassroots” efforts.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sponsored the measure, which passed over the objections of committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). All ten Republicans and two Democrats, Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, voted for the measure.
Hatch said abstinence education had been shown to work, while Baucus disagreed.
President Barack Obama in his 2010 budget has proposed to redirect money spent on abstinence-only education towards broader teen pregnancy-reduction programs.
By a 14-9 margin the committee also passed an alternative measure offered by Baucus. It would fund education on contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and other topics in addition to abstinence. According to the Associated Press, lawmakers must reconcile the two measures, which are part of a health care overhaul bill.
Valerie Huber, executive director of National Abstinence Education Association, praised the restoration of abstinence funding.
“It is encouraging that the hard work of grassroots constituencies from across the country have prevailed to ensure these common-sense programs will continue,” Huber commented in a Tuesday statement. "While the amendment still needs to pass a Senate floor vote, tonight's decision is a significant step in the right direction for the optimal health of America's youth.”