House Approves Spending Bill With Pro-Life Provisions Intact

An omnibus $516-billion spending bill, which preserved anti-abortion provisions and allocated funding for abstinence education programs, was approved by the House on Monday night.

The bill, which passed 254 to 153, continues the Hyde Amendment's prohibition against the use of federal funds for covering abortions under Medicaid.

Lawmakers also approved spending toward umbilical cord stem cell research, which is expected to encourage scientists to research alternatives to embryonic stem cell research.

Abortion opponents hailed the bill's retention of the Mexico City policy, which forbids U.S. funding for organizations overseas that promote or commit abortions.

A Democrat-backed provision that would have weakened the ban was dropped on Sunday, marking a victory for the Bush administration. The Mexico City Policy was implemented by President Reagan, rescinded by President Clinton and reinstated by President Bush.

"America is known for exporting many things, chief among them freedom and democracy," said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins in a statement.

"This victory ensures that America will not also become known as an exporter of death."

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, was not pleased with the overall spending bill but praised efforts against promoting abortion.

"While this bill has problems, we are glad that it would neither force Americans to subsidize abortions nor provide federal funding to force people to participate in abortion, an abhorrent elective procedure that kills babies and harms women," said Wright.

The spending bill freezes funding for Community Based Abstinence Education at $109 million for 2008, a $4 million drop from last year.

Meanwhile, the number of states deciding not to apply to for Federal Health and Human Services funds dedicated to abstinence-only education have jumped from four to fourteen. Many have either notified the federal government that they will be forgoing the funds or are not expected to apply.

The move by states in rejecting funds for abstinence-only education programs follows a series of studies questioning their effectiveness. In recent weeks, federal health officials reported that the teen birth rate is up again for the first time in 14 years.

Supporters of abstinence education, however, have pointed out the limitations of such studies. They contend that some studies reviewed abstinence programs that were among the first established and those that did not represent the majority of programs.

Conservatives have also noted that while the teen birth rate may have increased, rates have continued to decline for 10-to-14-year-olds, the age group typically targeted by such programs.

Virginia was the most recent state to turn down abstinence education funds.

Governor Timothy M. Kaine announced in November that the state would opt for comprehensive sex education instead.

Meanwhile, a study released a few days later affirmed that middle school students who received abstinence education were about one-half as likely to initiate sexual activity as students who did not receive abstinence education.