Problems With ObamaCare? How It Funds Abstinence-Only Education

Matthew Bulger, AHA’s Legislative Associate, discovers an amendment that was inserted into the Affordable Care Act that provides funding toward abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for youth.

ObamaCare, President Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, is dealing with some pretty big problems at the moment regarding online enrollment. Still, problems are to be expected with the rollout of any new major government initiative, although politicians who oppose the law are likely to be pretty vocal about their concerns as more problems manifest themselves in the coming days.

Unfortunately, there is a big problem with ObamaCare that pretty much no one in the political or media establishments are currently addressing: the restoration of federal funding for abstinence-only education that is part of the law.

According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SEICUS), the federal government has consistently funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs since 1981, even though scientific research has undoubtedly shown that they are ineffective. Even though these programs were proven to be unsuccessful, SEICUS notes that funding for these programs grew exponentially from 1996 until 2006, particularly during the years of the Bush administration.

In fact, between 2001 and 2009 Congress funneled a mind-numbing total of over $1.3 billion taxpayer dollars into abstinence-only programs according to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

This tradition of federal funding of unscientific sexual education was briefly ended in 2010 when President Obama cut all funding for abstinence education as part of his budget plan. Unfortunately, when ObamaCare was still being voted on in late 2010 an amendment that funded an abstinence-only education program was successfully attached to the bill. According to Tara Culp-Ressler of the, this funding for abstinence-only education was supplemented during budget negotiations for the 2012 fiscal year when Congress included a grant program to require federal funding for abstinence curricula over the next two years.

While federal funding of abstinence only education might be lower than it was in the past, Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post notes that “curriculums that teach abstinence as the singular method of birth control retained a $55 million budget in 2012, a full third of the $176 million available during President George W. Bush’s last year in office.” This is completely unacceptable, not only because it is a waste of federal dollars in an era known for shutdowns and sequesters, but because it represents a failure to properly prepare America’s youth to lead healthy and productive sexual lives.

Medically accurate sexual education is what’s needed if we as a country want to fight our astoundingly high teen pregnancy and STD-transmission rates. It’s important that children grow up knowing about their body and all it entails, not only because it will help them to make the right choices concerning sex, but because it will give them the information they need to help the next generation deal with the issue in the future. Abstinence-only education has proven to be a failure, and we simply cannot afford to fund sexual education programs that insist on an abstinence-only mindset.

Congress needs to get with the times and work with President Obama to end federal funding for abstinence-only education programs. While it may upset some hyper-religious constituents to see their children learning about their bodies in a medically accurate sense, their ignorance and immaturity cannot be allowed to jeopardize the sexual health of millions of Americans and the nation as a whole.