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Obey and Pelosi Fiddle While Rome Burns

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New data show the U.S. teen birth rate increasing for the first time in 14 years and new HIV infections 50 percent higher than originally estimated. Meanwhile, the chief Democratic House appropriator, David Obey (D-WI), fights for an historic $141 million for abstinence-only- until-marriage programs. And, worst of all, he's doing it with the help of Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)!

New CDC data show that the decade of progress reducing teen pregnancy and teen births may well be coming to a screeching halt. This unwelcome development should not come as a surprise since the dual factors that contributed to the success over the last decade -- the decline in sexual initiation and more effective use of contraception, including condoms, have both leveled off since the late '90s.

Since a number of studies have placed the majority share of the credit for declining rates with more effective contraceptive use, it is reasonable to place a large portion of the blame for the negative teen birth data at the feet of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that prohibit information about the use of contraception and condoms.

The CDC revision of HIV infection data is equally alarming. For more than a decade, the agency has estimated new HIV infections each year at 40,000. They now believe it is closer to 60,000. Almost half of new HIV infections are among young people under the age of 25.

Congress and the states have spent over $1.5 billion dollars on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs despite a federal study showing they have no impact on teen behavior.

While it is easy to target David Obey as the villain of this saga given his troglodytic views on all things dealing with sexual health, the collaborators responsible for this nonsense include pro-choice leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Nita Lowey, Henry Waxman, and even Barbara Lee. Not a single amendment was offered in the House by these "champions" to bring a halt to the funding of programs that spread ignorance in the era of AIDS.

The New York Times called out Pelosi in an editorial on Sunday. "The weak link is the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposes the administration's ineffective abstinence-only approach. But she seems to have ceded the issue to Representative David Obey, the House Appropriations chairman, who continues to insist on using it as bait for Republican votes on a budget compromise. Forgoing principle failed to produce a veto-proof majority for the spending bill the first time. Ms. Pelosi needs to reconsider whether expanding a discredited sex education program should be on the rather meager list of achievements of the first Democratic Congress in a decade."

I couldn't have said it better myself.