- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2001

Abstinence-education advocates are dismayed that President Bushs first budget shows no sign of $135 million in funding that they believe he pledged to spend on the programs.
But a White House spokeswoman yesterday said the president didnt make a "specific dollar-amount" pledge for abstinence education, and that the budget "reflects his commitment" to increase funds for abstinence education.
The point of contention grows out of a campaign speech Mr. Bush made in South Carolina on June 21, 1999.
According to reports by The Washington Post and Cox News Service, Mr. Bush said he wanted spending on abstinence programs to equal the amount spent on contraception programs, which Cox said were funded at $135 million in 1999.
The Post article, written by David S. Broder, said Mr. Bush pledged to increase federal abstinence funding to at least $135 million. Several advocates cited The Post article as evidence of Mr. Bushs pledge.
Mr. Bush did not promise a specific budget figure, White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said yesterday.
"The president pledged that there would be parity for abstinence education funding and funding for teen-contraception services," but didnt specify an amount, she said.
The Bush administrations budget for fiscal year 2002 has $92 million for abstinence education, a 15 percent increase over fiscal year 2001, she said.
That figure includes $80 million in two major abstinence education programs, plus a third program, the Adolescent Family Life, which funds three kinds of programs including abstinence education. The Adolescent Family Life budget will grow from $24.3 million to $27.8 million under Mr. Bushs proposal.
Also, some of the funds in the Title X family planning program and Medicaid program could be used for abstinence education, said Miss Buchan.
"This budget is a first installment" toward parity in funding abstinence and contraception programs, Miss Buchan said. "It goes a long, long way toward getting there."
"The fact is, theres no additional money in the presidents budget for abstinence education, other than what had long ago been appropriated by Congress," said one of several advocates who talked to The Washington Times this week on the condition of not being identified.
"If Al Gore was president, the same amount of money would be in the budget," the advocate said, arguing that $80 million of the funds isnt a penny more than previously authorized.
There is widespread belief that Mr. Bush is not aware of the "oversight."
"Im very certain that President Bush does not realize that this budget does not keep his campaign promise," said Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, summing up comments made by several others.
"I have the presidents word. I trust him and I believe him. So at this point, Im not panicking," said Leslee Unruh, director of the Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls, S.D.
But the omission has caused some observers to believe the administration has a "Dick Darman-type" who opposes abstinence education. Mr. Darman was the budget director in the administration of Mr. Bushs father and was disliked by many conservatives for quietly slashing budgets.
The lack of new abstinence education funds "has to be intentional," said one of the advocates who asked not to be identified. "This was too big a promise, too early on, for people on the campaign not to be aware of it and for people in the White House not to be aware of it."
"I think the president is being ill-advised here, and its very unfortunate," said Peter Brandt, spokesman for Focus on the Family.
This week, several advocates said, Department of Health and Human Services officials admitted privately there was a "screw-up" in the funding but said the problem would be fixed.
Some advocates said they were offering options — getting Congress to increase funds in a grant program or diverting existing funds, such as those for AIDS/HIV education, to abstinence education.

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