Kelly Marcum is Legislative Assistant at Family Research Council. This article appeared in Washington Examiner on April 6, 2018.
Congressional Democrats are in a panic over Title X, the federal government’s family planning program. That's because even though the recent omnibus spending bill once again allotted $286.479 million to fund the program, Republicans in Congress held the line on ensuring the Department of Health and Human Services has flexibility to change regulations governing how it is spent.
Control of these taxpayer dollars will be in the hands of Valerie Huber, the deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at HHS. Previous recipients, such as Planned Parenthood, which annually receives approximately $60 million in Title X money, may still apply for the grants, but the final arbiter of the funds’ dispersal will be Huber, a longtime advocate of sexual risk avoidance education (SRA), and a critic of the scandal plagued Planned Parenthood and its sexually explicit curricula.
Distraught at the thought of the nation’s largest abortion business having its second-largest funding stream redirected elsewhere, Senate Democrats have accused Huber, and more broadly the Trump administration, of prioritizing personal ideology over the health of America’s youth. However, precisely the opposite is the case. Unlike the previous administration, which was so entrenched in its crusade to promulgate the ideals of contraception and abortion on demand that it attempted to hide studies proving the inefficacy of their most prized comprehensive sex education program, Trump’s HHS has put the primacy once again on research and evidence.
Within the first months of the new administration, HHS announced its plan to end funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, the failed brainchild of Obama’s HHS, which receives $101 million annually, $18 million of which go to Planned Parenthood. Though Congress failed to cut the teen program in the FY2018 omnibus, they did manage to add $10 million to funding for SRA education. Moreover, for SRA programs to receive these funds, or any of the $75 million allocated to SRA via the Title V state grant program, they must emphasize that the optimum sexual health behavior is refraining from sexual activity until marriage. Additionally, these programs are encouraged to highlight the “Success Sequence,” a concept developed by the Brookings Institution that states adolescents and young adults have the best chance to achieve success when they finish their education, procure a job, and get married before having children.
As Wendy Wang at the Institute for Family Studies points out, studies show that millennials who followed this sequence are 90 percent less likely to end up in poverty. Among young adults from low-income backgrounds who follow it, the poverty rate is reduced to just 6 percent.
The Obama administration dismissed SRA as nothing more than moralistic, ignoring growing evidence of its positive impact, as well as surveys showing 77 percent of parents support SRA-based sex education. Thankfully, regardless of the media’s constant denigration of “abstinence only” supporters, Huber and her colleagues at HHS continue to push for sound policy over partisan politics. Their latest efforts are shown in the recent Title X funding announcement, which is partly to blame for the recent apoplectic outburst from the left side of the aisle.
The announcement clearly states that it will prioritize applications from organizations that “offer a broad range of family planning and related health services tailored to the individual needs of the client and that promote optimal health outcomes.” HHS has also hosted webinars designed to attract a broader swath of applicants outside of the usual recipients in order to ensure the funds are distributed in the most meaningful way possible.
Such unwillingness to kowtow to the fevered demands for contraception and comprehensive sex education and instead to provide a broad array of health options designed to more fully meet the needs of a larger strata of the population, particularly low-income demographics, is an unwelcome change for congressional Democrats. They unfortunately remain bent on pursuing their own ideological agenda while ignoring both evidence and common sense. Fortunately, for our youth and for our nation’s most vulnerable groups, this administration is just as determined to put a stop to taxpayer funding of risky sexual behaviors, and instead to direct these dollars to programs designed to actually serve the most vulnerable among us.