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House Committee Votes to Renew 'Abstinence-Only' Program on Sex

April 25, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A House committee voted to renew a contentious sexual abstinence program Wednesday after rejecting a Democratic attempt to let states decide whether to include discussion of birth control methods.

The vigorous debate stood in sharp contrast to five years ago, when Congress tacked the program onto welfare legislation with almost no public discussion.

Majority Republicans defended the "abstinence-only" program, and the House Commerce Committee voted, 35 to 17, to extend it for another five years.

"If your state doesn't want it, they don't have to take it," committee Chairman W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.) said. "They can abstain."

Democrats spoke in favor of "abstinence-plus" programs, which are used in many schools. Such programs emphasize that abstaining from sex is a person's best choice and the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and disease, but they urge those who have sex anyway to use condoms or other protections.

The federal law bars discussion of the benefits of birth control and instructs programs to teach that any sex outside marriage has harmful consequences.

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