Hatch pushes abstinence only in health reform

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A Senate committee voted late Tuesday to bring back federally sponsored abstinence-only education, tucking $50 million a year into the broader health reform package.

The Senate Finance Committee narrowly approved the amendment offered by Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch on a 12 to 11 vote with Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad, N.D., and Blanche Lincoln, Ark., siding with the panel's 10 Republicans.

The amendment was approved over the objections of the committee's chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who offered his own amendment that would create a program that would teach about abstinence, contraceptives and life skills, such as financial literacy.

Baucus's amendment -- with a price tag of $50 million annually -- also was approved by the committee.

Hatch and Baucus argued about the effectiveness of abstinence-only education programs, continuing a debate between the two parties that has gone on for years -- and because of the dueling votes will continue as part of the health reform debate. The amendments would still need to go before the full Senate and House.

President Barack Obama's budget calls for a comprehensive sex education program similar to that offered by Baucus, while phasing out the abstinence-only program vigorously supported by his predecessor, former President George W. Bush.