(CNSNews.com) - As Congress finishes work on the federal budget for the 2006 fiscal year, attempts to hold down spending on programs dealing with sexual health have drawn criticism from both sides of the political aisle.
But while activists are complaining that their programs will not receive sufficient money for the coming year, funding for "comprehensive sex education" supported by liberals still outpaces "abstinence education" backed by conservatives by a margin of 12 to 1.
Linda Klepacki, sexual health analyst for the conservative group Focus on the Family, told Cybercast News Service that "there's a tremendous disparity in the amount of money that's used in the United States, and certainly worldwide, when we look at condom-based sex education versus abstinence education."
One reason for the difference, Klepacki said, is that "condom-based sex education has been around for over 40 years, and we've only had federal funding of abstinence-until-marriage education since 1996."
Congress is preparing to partially address that disparity by increasing one source of funding for abstinence-based sex education, though not nearly as much as in the past few years.
Community-Based Abstinence Education grants, which are made to "educate young people and create an environment within communities that supports teen decisions to postpone sexual activity until marriage," are expected to go up about 11 percent in the Fiscal Year 2006 budget.
This increase is far less than the jump of 37 to 40 percent the program has received annually since it was conceived in Fiscal Year 2001.
Klepacki noted that while she would like to see abstinence education "increased as much as possible," she views the budget battle as part of a bigger picture.
"Everyone in the United States has to be cautious with increases while we have a war in Iraq, and two major hurricanes have hit the United States," she stated. "With that said, I think abstinence education is the healthiest option for our children inside or outside our public schools."
Karen Pearl, interim president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) argued that spending federal money on an "ineffective" program like Community-Based Abstinence Education was "outrageous.
"The president and Congress are acting as though abstinence-only programs have been vindicated and deserve even more funding," she added.
Pearl was also critical of another part of the 2006 federal budget: a proposal to "flat-fund" spending for Title X of the Public Service Health Act, which provides grants to public and private non-profit agencies for family planning and reproductive services, at its current level of just under $286 million.
"We are saddened that Congress has chosen to balance the budget at the expense of the neediest in our society," Pearl said. "Those who voted to weaken this cornerstone of America's social safety net should be ashamed."
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, Title X faces another financial problem: inflation.
The institute reports that the family planning program lost a significant amount of funding during the 1980s, and while appropriations increased during the Clinton administration, the decreased purchasing power of the dollar meant that the program was actually operating with less money each year.
Therefore, the $286 million allotted for Fiscal Year 2005 was worth 59 percent less than the $162 million appropriated back in 1980. If kept in line with inflation, the Title X budget would have more than doubled from its current amount, to $590 million.
As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Planned Parenthood is the nation's most frequent provider of abortions, a fact that influences its view of family planning appropriations.
Even though government grants are given for specific projects and are prohibited by law from being used for abortions, that funding still helps Planned Parenthood operate more than 600 of its clinics across the country.
Fiscal Year 2006 officially began on Oct. 1, but Congress passed a continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded until Nov. 18. In the meantime, committees are working out the differences in the budget versions passed by the Senate and the House last April.
John Scofield, spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, told Cybercast News Service that the budget for the Fiscal Year 2006 was in part a response to the charge that the government has been on a "GOP spending spree."
"This is the leanest budget in years," Scofield said. "While abstinence has been a priority of the Republican administration," lawmakers are following the president's lead from his 2006 fiscal year budget request to "exercise even greater spending restraint than in the past."
See Earlier Stories:
GOP 'Spending Spree' Threatens Party's Grip on Power (Oct. 05, 2005)
Democrat Calls Bush's Budget 'Fiscally Irresponsible Fraud' (Feb. 07, 2005)
Planned Parenthood: More Abortions, Fewer Clinics (Jan. 18, 2005)
Taxpayers Subsidizing Planned Parenthood, Critic Says (Dec. 18, 2003)
Make media inquiries or request an interview with Randy Hall.
Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-Brief.
E-mail a comment or news tip to Randy Hall.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.