Clinton Asks Cut in Abstinence Budget

WASHINGTON—Supporters of National Week of Chastity will find little support from the White House.

A few days before the chastity week kicked off, President Clinton submitted a budget proposal that would cut federal spending for abstinence education programs while increasing it for so-called safe sex programs.

At a congressional hearing, Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., told the president's secretary of health and human services, Donna Shalala, “You're in your eighth year now, and you've supported more spending on everything else, yet you've never proposed a single penny to promote abstinence. Congress has stepped in to do that, and now your budget wants to reverse our efforts.”

Last year Istook was the chief sponsor of the $20 million in new funding to promote abstinence.

Shalala admitted that her department is refusing application for the new abstinence grants because she proposes to eliminate them.

She told the committee that the $50 million established for abstinence in the 1996 welfare bill is sufficient.

“We believe there is a substantial investment,” she said, “we have been strong supporters of abstinence education.”

Istook shot back: “No, Ms. Shalala, don't insult me by telling me you're supporting abstinence education when you've never proposed a penny for it. The only money that's been funded was what Congress insisted upon, over your objections, over your efforts to block it. That is pathetic. It is a disgrace, Ms. Shalala.”

Istook later told the Register: “We need a clear message that abstinence is the only sure way to prevent teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. It's sad that the Clinton administration condones the teen sex that causes disease, unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and that traps young mothers in a cycle of poverty.”

Andrew Daub, director of youth divisions for American Life League, was also critical of the administration.

He said Clinton sent teen-agers the wrong message by calling for a cut in abstinence funding just as he proposed an increase in “safe sex” programs.

Daub said that the outreach to students would continue with or without help from the politicians. He added, “We're not counting on them to do anything.”