Washington Times, December 2, 2004
calls abstinence plans 'misleading'
The Bush administration is funding abstinence
education curricula that teaches "false
and misleading information," says a report
released yesterday by a House Democratic leader.
"It is absolutely vital that the health
education provided to America's youth be scientifically
and medically accurate," said Rep. Henry
A. Waxman, California Democrat and ranking
member of the House Government Reform Committee,
who issued the report.
The report says 11 of 13 abstinence-only curricula
"contain errors and distortions"
about contraceptives, sexually transmitted
diseases (STDs), abortion, sex roles and sexual
Mr. Waxman decried the Bush administration's
burgeoning support of such education, with
$170 million expected to be allocated in fiscal
2005, more than twice the amount spent in 2001.
"Something is seriously wrong when federal
tax dollars are being used to mislead kids
about basic health facts," Mr. Waxman
The congressman's report "misses the boat,"
said Dr. Alma Golden, deputy assistant secretary
for population affairs in the Department of
Health and Human Services' Office of Public
Health and Science.
Taking issues and information out of context
to discredit abstinence education "is
a disservice to our children," she said.
"Studies show, as does my own experience
as a pediatrician, that abstinence works, especially
when combined" with parental guidance
about boundaries and expectations regarding
sex and relationships.
Earlier this year, the Sexuality Information
and Education Council of the United States
(SIECUS) released a state-by-state review of
The Waxman report "reiterates and underscores
what we've been saying for some time - that
these programs are out of control ... using
fear and shame, proselytizing on religion,
using inaccurate information," said SIECUS
spokesman William Smith.
However, abstinence curriculum providers stood
by their materials.
"The information presented in [abstinence
curricula] 'Game Plan' and 'Navigator' is medically
accurate, and all information presented is
from data compiled by national sources such
as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
National Institutes of Health and the American
Social Health Association. These curricula
have been reviewed by physicians and public
health professionals and have been found to
be statistically and medically accurate,"
said Libby Gray, director of Project Reality
in Glenview, Ill., which produces those two
The Waxman report reviewed programs funded by
the largest federal grant program, Special
Programs of Regional and National Significance
Community-Based Abstinence Education. It found:
* References to a now-discredited 1993 study
that suggested condoms had a relatively low
(69 percent) rate of effectiveness in preventing
* Statements about how HIV and other pathogens
can "pass through" imperfections
in condoms. In fact, the CDC states that latex
condoms "provide an essentially impermeable
barrier to particles the size of STD pathogens,"
the Waxman report said.
* Statements about how "5 to 10 percent
of women will never again be pregnant after
having a legal abortion." In fact, obstetrics
textbooks teach that fertility "is not
altered" by an elective abortion, the
"Several curricula also present misleading
information about the relationship between
sexual activity and mental health, inaccurately
suggesting that abstinence can solve all psychological
problems," the report said.
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