A measure within the state budget would result in Texas cutting $3 million from programs meant to help aid in the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. That money would instead go toward abstinence education.
The budget amendment received overwhelming approval by the GOP-controlled House only after a very heated, and personal, exchange took place with House Democrats.
Republican state Rep. Stuart Spitzer defended the amendment, saying he practiced abstinence until he was married, and that he hoped students in the state would follow his example. He refused to answer a question posed by Rep. Harold Dutton, who asked whether his wife had been the first person he propositioned, instead saying, “What’s good for me is good for a lot of people.”
When asked how much money would be needed by Texas, which already receives more federal funding than any other state, Spitzer said that additional funding would be needed so long as people were having sex prior to being married. The goal of the effort, he said, was for everyone to know that “abstinence is the best way to prevent HIV.”
After some Democrats reminded Spitzer that STDs can be spread without having sex, Spitzer replied, “You can, but it’s awful hard through your clothes.”
Democrats asked for the debate to be written down for the record, but those requests went denied.
While Rep. Sylvester Turner acknowledged the benefits of abstinence programs, he said HIV and STD prevention programs had their own benefits as well, writes Kelsey Jukam for The Texas Observer.
“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.”
As of 2013, Texas had the highest rate of HIV diagnoses in the country, reports the federal Centers for Disease Control, and also has one of the highest rates of teen birth. Sex education is not required in its public schools, but districts are allowed to decide for themselves how to approach sex education as long as more is taught concerning abstinence over any other prevention method.
An additional amendment recently passed in the state in an effort to deny schools the ability to distribute sex education materials from abortion providers.
The amendment was approved on a 97-47 vote, largely along party lines.