House Votes to Defund HIV Prevention to Pay for Abstinence Education


Texas has the third highest rate of HIV infections in the country, but that didn’t stop lawmakers from passing an amendment that defunds HIV/STD prevention programs Tuesday. The amendment to the House budget proposal—offered by Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R-Kaufman)—diverts $3 million over the next biennium to abstinence-only sexual education programs.

House Democrats fought against the amendment in a debate that rapidly devolved into awkward farce, with Rep. Spitzer revealing details of his own sexual history as proof of the effectiveness of abstinence. For those keeping tabs at home, he was a virgin until marrying his wife at age 29, although he declined to answer a question from Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) on whether she was the first person he propositioned. “Decorum,” shouted state Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs).

Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) asked Spitzer just how much money is needed for abstinence education in Texas, which receives more federal funding than any other state. Spitzer responded that additional funds are needed as long as people are still having sex before marriage.  His goal, he said, was for everyone to know that “abstinence is the best way to prevent HIV.”

“My goal is for everyone to be HIV/AIDS free,” Turner said.

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Turner said that while he thinks abstinence programs are valid, HIV and STD prevention programs are too.

“Does it make sense if you have two children to take food from one to feed the other?” Turner said. “You’re taking from one valid program in order to go to the other and I think that is wrong.”

Spitzer is a doctor, but some legislators suggested he needed a refresher course in the basis of STD-transmission. When some Democrats pointed out that STDs could be spread without having sex, Spitzer replied: “You can, but it’s awful hard through your clothes.”

Spitzer’s amendment was adopted 97 aye votes and 47 nays on a largely party-line vote.