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Spending bill includes $10M increase for abstinence education

Spending bill includes $10M increase for abstinence education
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Abstinence-only education would see a $10 million funding boost under the spending bill released by Congress Wednesday night and advanced by the House Thursday morning. 

Under the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill, the Sexual Risk Avoidance Education (SRAE) grant program would receive a 67 percent increase in funding, bringing it up to $25 million. 

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The SRAE grants fund projects that teach participants how to refrain from non-marital sexual activity and avoid risky behaviors such as underage drinking and drug use. 

If passed, it would bring federal spending on abstinence-only programs to $100 million a year, the highest level for these types of programs since the George W. Bush administration. 

The spending bill Congress passed in February renewed the Title V abstinence-only program for two years at $75 million annually. 

The House on Thursday voted to advance the omnibus, with a final vote expected later in the afternoon before the package heads to the Senate.

While the Obama administration primarily focused on comprehensive sex-ed programs, which can include lessons on contraception, disease prevention, healthy relationships and abstinence, the Trump administration has put a bigger emphasis on programs that prioritize abstinence. 

The spending bill also contains funding at $101 million for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPP), for which the administration prematurely ended grants last summer. 

The TPP program, created under former President Obama in 2010, was criticized by conservatives and abstinence advocates for placing an emphasis on safe sex instead of abstinence. 

Of the 44 program models approved by the Obama administration to coincide with the grants, only three focused solely on abstinence.

The administration notified more than 80 grantees last summer that their five-year grants would end two years sooner than planned. 

The administration is expected to make changes to the TPP program, which could involve a bigger emphasis on abstinence or SRAE programs. 

The Senate Appropriations Committee last year included language in its Health and Human Services appropriations bill that would have essentially prevented these changes, but that language did not end up in the final spending bill.