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Omnibus Plays Politics with the Health and Lives of Vulnerable Populations; Decimates Funding for School-Based HIV Prevention

For Immediate Release                                                                        Contact: Jen Heitel Yakush
December 16, 2011                                                                               202.265.2405 //


Omnibus Plays Politics with the Health and Lives of Vulnerable Populations
Proves that Congress Views the Health and Lives of Young People and Low-Income Women as Political Chits to be Traded
Statement of Monica Rodriguez, SIECUS President and CEO, on the Fiscal Year 2012 Omnibus
“The Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Appropriations Omnibus proves that Members of Congress have decided once again it is acceptable to play politics with the health and lives of young people and poor women. With a significant cut to HIV/STD prevention for young people, the resurrection of dedicated discretionary funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, the inclusion of a ban on how the District of Columbia can spend its own funds on abortion, the cut to Title X family planning, and the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs, they have made clear they do not prioritize the health and welfare of our nation’s most vulnerable individuals.
The bill includes a $10 million cut to the Division of Adolescent and School Health’s (DASH’s) HIV/STD Prevention Education program, a reduction of 25 percent. For more than two decades, DASH has effectively worked with schools across the country to provide an evidence-based and data driven approach to school health education, including sex education for the prevention of HIV, other STDs, and unintended pregnancy. Research has shown that school health programs can reduce the prevalence of health risk behaviors among young people, have a positive effect on academic performance, and are cost effective. When every hour of every day two young people become infected with HIV and young men who have sex with men of color are the only population among which new HIV infection rates are increasing, a cut in DASH HIV/STD Prevention Education can be construed as nothing more than a slap in their faces.
While significantly cutting funding for evidence-based and data driven programs, the legislation contains an earmark that resurrects funding for the discontinued and discredited Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) grant program. Eliminated in FY 2010, based on the large body of evidence proving funded programs ineffective, failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs received well over half-a-billion taxpayer dollars through CBAE over the life of theprogram. At a time when Members of Congress are climbing over each other to prove that they are more fiscally conservative then the next, it is beyond comprehension they would cut funding for evidence-based programs in favor of funding for programs that the federal government’s own study proved simply do not work.
The legislation also includes a policy rider restricting the District of Columbia’s right to make its own decisions regarding spending local money. This rider imposes conservative ideology on the women of the District and undermines the ability of District residents to decide how they want to spend their own taxpayer dollars on medically necessary abortion for those who cannot afford it, simply because the District’s spending, unlike the 50 states, is subject to Congressional oversight.
These cuts and policy riders are quite simply telling young people and low-income women that Congress doesn’t care about them, their health, or their lives. At SIECUS, we reject the notion that the health and lives of young people and poor women are expendable, political chits that can be traded without regard. Congress and the Obama administration must stop playing politics with the health and lives of our nation’s most vulnerable populations.”
The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) affirms that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human, one that is worthy of dignity and respect. 
We advocate for the right of all people to accurate information, comprehensive education about sexuality, and sexual health services. SIECUSworks to create a world that ensures social justice and sexual rights.