A US$410-billion spending bill, passed by the Senate yesterday to keep government operations running through the end of the fiscal year, will also reverse many Bush-era policies, including controversial provisioning for abstinence-only sex-education spending.

The spending plan will cut abstinence-only sex education funding by US$14.2 million and will increase expenditure on family-planning initiatives by US$7.5 million.

Abstinence-only sexual education programs have seen little by way of scientific backing to explain their prioritization in U.S. policy during the Bush years, pointing to a largely ideological reasoning behind such provisions. Counter to this line of reasoning, the spending bill has introduced a clause making “scientifically accurate” programs a priority for funding.

The reorientation toward more scientifically-backed policies may have effects beyond U.S. borders. The Bush administration’s global HIV/AIDS action plan, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), required that one third of prevention funding going to recipient states be geared toward abstinence-based sexual education. Though such specific requirements were removed under PEPFAR’s 2008 reauthorization, the moral overtones of the Bush administration remained committed to abstinence-based education.

– Nadja Popovich