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September 27, 2009

Abstinence-Only Education Lies

Here's a time capsule for you. I originally wrote this post in 2004, when Wade Horn was running the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Now that everyone knows what a colossal failure abstinence-only education is, hindsight is a good thing.

About Abstinence-Only Education

A November, 2004, Washington Times article noted that the Bush administration "included more than $131 million for abstinence programs in its $388 billion spending bill. This represents an increase of $30 million for programs that teach middle- and high-school youths that sexual abstinence until marriage is the best choice. The new funding is far less than the $100 million Mr. Bush requested, but it marks a "record level of funding," said leaders of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls, S.D."

According to the Working For Change article, "in late December, the Sun Myung Moon Unification Church-owned Washington Times reported that "the nation's two largest abstinence-grant programs [were moved] to a new -- and friendlier -- agency within the Department of Health and Human Services." The ACF, run by Horn, "recently received oversight of the $50 million Title V and $104 million community-based abstinence-education grant programs. Wade Horn's leadership and commitment to abstinence will be a tremendous benefit to abstinence education," said Bruce Cook, founder of Choosing the Best abstinence program. He "will do a wonderful job of promoting the [abstinence] message with the passion and commitment it deserves," said Libby Gray, director of the Project Reality abstinence group in Glenview, Ill.

Abstinence-only education has already been criticized for spreading misconceptions and outright lies. A Congressional staff analysis led by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) addressed some of these serious problems:

"Many American youngers participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy, a congressional staff analysis has found.

Those and other assertions are examples of the "false, misleading, or distorted information" in the programs' teaching materials, said the analysis, released yesterday, which reviewed the cirricula of more than a dozen projects aimed at preventing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease."

Here are some of the fallacies children are being taught with abstinence-only education:

* A 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person."

* HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears.

* Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.

* One curriculum, called "Me, My World, My Future," teaches that women who have an abortion "are more prone to suicide" and that as many as 10 percent of them become sterile. This contradicts the 2001 edition of a standard obstetrics textbook that says fertility is not affected by elective abortion, the Waxman report said.

[From 2007] Washington State had experienced a serious problem in sex education related to the conservative, religious push for abstinence-only education. A third of Washington schools are not teaching young people about condoms or other forms of contraception. The only contraceptiong being taught is abstinence. An eight-year study found that teens who take abstinence pledges "are almost as likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease as those who never made the pledge." We need good sex education in schools and at home, not a lot of misconstrued garbage that appeals to religious conservative

Marriage initiatives have not been shown to work, and they should not be hoisted on the poor by Wade Horn and DHHS. Abstinence-only education does not belong in our children's classrooms, and Wade Horn should not be funding lies and misconceptions that would appeal to a "faith-based" contingency. The time for social experimentation on the backs of the poor and on our children must stop.

Posted on September 27, 2009 at 06:00 PM | Permalink


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