Roll Call: Senate Rejects Anti-Abstinence Amendment

On October 30, by a vote of 45 to 47, the Senate failed to pass an amendment proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) that would have effectively eliminated the dedication of funding for “abstinence education” abroad by re-defining the word “abstinence.”

The amendment to the foreign operations bill (H.R. 2800) would have made all of the African AIDS funding that President Bush promised in the State of the Union address available to groups that will use it for non-abstinence education.

Pro-family groups-as well as African youth at risk for AIDS-won a huge but quiet victory with this unexpected success on the Senate floor. President Bush had demanded that the foreign operations bill include requirements that a certain percentage-one-third-of foreign aid for AIDS-prevention go for abstinence education-the only method that has had any success in Africa, specifically in Uganda.

“This amendment aims to provide some flexibility so that the people on the ground have the opportunity of tailoring the most effective prevention program,” Feinstein said in promoting her amendment. “The way in which we do it is, first, we reserve at least one-third of funds for the prevention of the sexual transmission of HIV, rather than one-third of all prevention funds, for abstinence-until-marriage programs. Secondly, our amendment defines an abstinence-until-marriage program as any program that places a priority emphasis on the public health benefits of refraining from sexual activity outside of marriage.”

Presumably, this could include programs that give lip service to abstinence, but then encourage sodomy and other deviant sexual activities as long as they are done with condoms.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.) argued forcefully against the amendment, citing the success of Uganda’s abstinence education program.

“We had the First Lady of Uganda here speaking with a number of us, talking about the central role of abstinence and the historic drop in the level of HIV/AIDS that had taken place in their country. . .Their infection rate dropped from 21% to 7% in just nine years. She was saying specifically it was the abstinence portion. It was the abstinence focus. If you want to stop the spread of AIDS, the best way to do it is abstinence.

The abstinence requirements unexpectedly survived this floor vote even though Feinstein had been fairly certain of victory. She was very surprised by the defeat, a senior Republican staffer told HUMAN EVENTS. “Her jaw dropped,” the staffer said.

The Bush White House has been faulted by conservatives for letting important social conservative causes die in the Senate-the cloning ban, for example, and several judicial nominations-when well-placed threats and promises by Bush could probably cause some action. Not so on this abstinence vote, however, in which the President’s intervention may have made the difference in keeping moderate Republicans such as John Warner (Va.), Ted Stevens (Alaska) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) in the fold.

Brownback read on the floor from a letter from the Ambassador for Global AIDS Coordination, Randall Tobias, who expressed strong opposition to the amendment: “[T]he effect of this amendment would be to decrease the amount that could be spent on abstinence-until-marriage programs as a prevention model,” wrote Tobias. “I believe that would not be in the interest of best public health practice.”

A “yes” vote was a vote for the Feinstein amendment, to effectively reduce the influence of abstinence education in new and existing AIDS relief efforts that are funded by taxpayers. A “no” vote was a vote against the amendment.

FOR THE AMENDMENT: 45 AGAINST THE AMENDMENT: 47
REPUBLICANS FOR (3):
Chafee
Collins
Snowe

DEMOCRATS FOR (41):
Akaka
Baucus
Bayh
Biden
Bingaman
Boxer
Breaux
Byrd
Cantwell
Clinton
Conrad
Corzine
Daschle
Dayton
Dodd
Dorgan
Durbin
Feingold
Feinstein
Graham (Fla.)
Harkin
Inouye
Johnson
Kennedy
Kohl
Landrieu
Lautenberg
Leahy
Levin
Lincoln
Mikulski
Murray
Nelson
Pryor
Reed (R.I.)
Reid (Nev.)
Rockefeller
Sarbanes
Schumer
Stabenow
Wyden

INDEPENDENT FOR (1):
Jeffords

REPUBLICANS AGAINST (46):
Alexander
Allard
Allen
Bennett
Bond
Brownback
Bunning
Burns
Campbell
Chambliss
Cochran
Coleman
Cornyn
Craig
Crapo
DeWine
Dole
Ensign
Enzi
Fitzgerald
Frist
Graham (S.C.)
Grassley
Gregg
Hagel
Hatch
Hutchison
Inhofe
Kyl
Lugar
McCain
McConnell
Murkowski
Nickles
Roberts
Santorum
Sessions
Shelby
Smith
Specter
Stevens
Sununu
Talent
Thomas
Voinovich
Warner

DEMOCRATS AGAINST (1):
Miller

NOT VOTING: 8

REPUBLICANS (2): DEMOCRATS (6):
Domenici
Lott
Carper
Edwards
Hollings
Kerry
Lieberman
Nelson (Neb.)


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