On July 20, 2009, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed an amendment to add a new Healthy Teen Initiative to the proposed healthcare reform legislation that is making its way through Congress. The amendment will dedicate $50 million in funding to states for evidence-based programs designed to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. This amendment, introduced by Representative Louis Capps (D-CA), passed by a vote of 33–23.
“We are particularly grateful to Chairman Waxman, Representatives Capps and DeGette, and all of the other members who supported this amendment, for their strong leadership on this issue and dedication to the health and future of young people throughout the country,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS.
The Healthy Teen Initiative would operate through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and would be available to private and public entities, “including schools and community-based and faith-based organizations.” The money would be given to states which would be required to provide a match equal to one dollar for every four federal dollars received and then use the money or distribute it. Entities using the grant money would be required to use programs that have been proven “to delay initiation of sex; to decrease number of partners; to reduce teen pregnancy; to reduce sexually transmitted infection rates; or to improve rates of contraceptive use.”
In order to ensure the quality of the programs, the amendment requires that a “Registry of Eligible Programs,” listing those programs that are evidence-based, medically and scientifically accurate, and age-appropriate, be created.
“It is far past time that we start addressing the challenges to the health and well being of young people with programs that comprehensively address sexual health and behavior instead of with programs that are ideologically based or narrowly focused,” said Smith, adding, “Thanks to the leadership of the Energy and Commerce Committee, we are one step closer to achieving this goal.”
While the Healthy Teen Initiative amendment passed by a comfortable margin, another amendment offered in Committee by Representative Lee Terry (R-NE), to extend failed Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding, was defeated by only three votes, 29–26. The amendment aimed to extend the program, which expired on June 30, 2009, until the end of 2012. At the time of the program’s end, nearly half of the states had rejected Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage, largely due to the inefficacy of the programs.
“This close vote indicates that supporters of comprehensive sexuality education, both in the advocacy world and in Congress, must continue to stand up to strong resistance and not rest on past achievements. Comprehensive sexuality education still has many opponents, and we still have a long way to go before it is available to all young people, but we are extremely grateful for the step that Congress took yesterday and hopeful that Congressional leadership will continue its strong support,” concluded Smith.