Bush Administration releases 2003 budget proposal. (Policy Update).
Immediately following the broadcast, he was rebuffed by groups like Focus on the Family and Concerned Women for America, both of whom had previously been his staunch allies. In contrast, he was warmly embraced by public health advocates, many of whom have previously felt alienated from the Bush Administration and its policies.
Powell's remarks are encouraging. Yet, in spite of the Administration's attempts to convince the public otherwise, they represent a departure from current policy. President Bush's educational and fiscal priorities remain on the side of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
NO, JUST MORE ABSTINENCE-ONLY-UNTIL-MARRIAGE
President Bush released his fiscal 2003 budget proposal on February 4 outlining his spending priorities for next year. Though Congress ultimately determines how much money the government will spend and on what programs, the President's budget is the starting point for discussion between his position and Congressional spending priorities.
And the President's proposal carries great weight in the budget process, especially in an election year, when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is unlikely to buck his priorities.
For advocates of comprehensive sexuality education, his proposal represents an unusual scenario. First, and perhaps most interestingly, he seeks abstinence-only-until-marriage education 510(b) funding to remain level at $50 million per year. This means he has no desire to see this particular program grow.
His proposal also earmarks two million new federal dollars to similar education efforts funded through the Adolescent Family Life Program (bringing fiscal 2003 funding of this program to $31 million).
He does, however, make good on his campaign pledge "to spend as much money on abstinence-only-until-marriage education programs as on contraception programs." And he continues to use "fuzzy math" in an attempt to secure $135 million for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in fiscal year 2003--a 33 percent increase over 2002--entirely through the Special Projects of Regional and National Significance-Community Based Abstinence Education (SPRANS-CBAE) program. That would bring the program's current budget from $40 to $73 million.
Advocates of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have heralded the President's new proposals. Michael Schwartz, vice president of governmental relations at Concerned Women for America, called it "very good news and said that "one of the problems of last year's budget was that it failed to include an increase in abstinence funding." He appears to have overlooked the $20 million increase in SPRANS-CBAE funding in last year's federal budget--increasing it from $20 to $40 million.
In response to President Bush's proposed increase in federal funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage education, nearly 30 organizations, including SIECUS, sent a letter to the White House urging him to reconsider his proposal.
In addition, three members of Congress--Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and James Greenwood (R-PA)--sent a letter to the President expressing "strong concern" about his proposed increase, They cited the Family Life Education Act (HR 3469), of which the three are the current lead sponsors, as an example of how new federal dollars should be spent on sexuality education. If passed, HR 3469 will allocate $100 million per year to scientifically sound sexuality education programs that include information on both abstinence and contraception.
AND MORE MARRIAGE
President Bush's budget also proposes $300 million in federal funds to promote marriage for those who receive benefits from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. While his budget does not contain details, the Bush Administration is promoting it as an anti-poverty measure based on data that children raised in two-parent families are less likely to grow up in poverty.
The Administration plans to fund the proposal by eliminating the "illegitimacy bonus" in the 1996 welfare reform law. This was designed to create a competition among states to reduce their out-of-wedlock births without increasing abortions. Since 1998, $100 million--$25 million per year to four states with the highest success rates--have been awarded to states with statistically insignificant reductions. The competition was a considerable failure.
While no one is sorry to see the "illegitimacy bonus" disappear, many advocates would like to see the money redirected to teen pregnancy prevention efforts, not marriage promotion.
The Bush Administration's proposed spending on HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment has done little to reassure advocates who are still concerned about his appointments to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) this January.
For example, he proposes to level fund the Ryan White CARE Act at $1.911 billion in fiscal year 2003. He also intends to level fund HIV-, STD- and TB-prevention efforts at the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at $1.143 billion.
Considering that the CDC recently increased its estimate of HIV-infected Americans from approximately 600,000 to nearly one million and that an estimated 25 percent of those infected are unaware of their sero-positive status, the proposed budget fails to meet uphill efforts to halt the epidemic.
On the global front, HIV/AIDS funding fared no better. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria is scheduled to receive a small increase of $200 million and the HIV/AIDS programs of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are scheduled to receive a $115 million increase.
Ironically, President Bush's budget figures were made public the same day that The Washington Post reported on a study released by the World Health Organization and several United Nations agencies indicating that the "major obstacles" of "insufficient will and money" were the reasons why the global AIDS-related death toll could not be cut by 25 percent by 2010 and why deaths from malaria and tuberculosis could not be halved over the same period. The price tag for the global effort was estimated at $12 billion over the next eight years. President Bush's HIV/AIDS funding mentioned above would represent less than 20 percent of this amount.
The President's budget proposals clearly indicate where his Administration's priorities lie on issues of reproductive and sexual health. The main goals are the promotion of marriage regardless of circumstances and an insistence upon abstinence for all single people, regardless of age.
While the reauthorization of welfare reform is sure to continue to garner a great deal of attention for fiscal year 2003, advocates of reproductive and sexual health face a significant challenge.
Even though the annual federal appropriations cycle is always a struggle, it may prove more so this year. If President Bush's approval rating remains high, and the battle for the control of Congress is as close as most political pundits predict, every elected official will tread lightly.
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|Date:||Feb 1, 2002|
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