a bird and a bottle


Taking on Abstinence Only “Education”

Seems that last week’s report that abstinence only “education” programs are totally ineffective has emboldened some of ab-only’s opponents.

Earlier this week, Salon’s Broadsheet reported that the ACLU (full disclosure: where I will work this summer), Advocates for Youth, and SIECUS, hot on the heels of last week’s report, have sent a letter to the director of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), warning him that if HHS doesn’t comply with federal law (which the groups claim abstinence only programs violate), they’ll file a lawsuit challenging the Federal abstinence programs. Salon tells us that the case would be based on:

evidence that 1) many federally funded abstinence-only programs are filled with medically inaccurate information about condoms, HIV and other sexual health issues and 2) the programs have not proved to be effective in preventing teens from having sex.

But it’s not only the advocacy groups that are getting on the case now. Even the NYT is getting in on the action, though they did bury their editorial in the little-read Saturday paper. In their Editorial this morning, the paper writes:

Reliance on abstinence-only sex education as the primary tool to reduce teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases — as favored by the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress — looks increasingly foolish and indefensible.

I take issue with the fact that the Times is totally hedging here — these programs are not becoming “increasingly” foolish or indefensible. They always have been, but no one was willing to stick out their neck before this report came out and made support of abstinence only a losing game. I appreciate that the Times is helping make this an issue. But their “eh” language won’t help much.

The truth is, it’s on Congress now to defund these programs. Congress has been complicit in their expansion for too long (the Republican Congress, I might add). Now, led by Democrats and changing the priorities, this Congress needs to use the recent report as support for its decision to defund these programs and mandate real, comprehensive sex ed in all our schools.

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14 Comments so far
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Bean, it seems these abstinence-only programs will be disgraced and discredited by their own authors. Consider the case of Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias who submitted his resignation Friday. In an article, “Bush official linked to call-girl probe,” Anne Gearan writes: “Randall Tobias, head of the Bush administration’s foreign aid programs, abruptly resigned Friday after his name surfaced in an investigation into a high-priced call-girl ring, said two people in a position to know the circumstances of his departure.”

If the plausible deniability weren’t so ridiculous, the irony would be laughable. But the story doesn’t end here. Consider this:

“Tobias was the second public figure identified as a customer of Palfrey’s [the indicted operator of the call girl service] … Palfrey recently made good on her threat to identify high-profile clients, listing in court documents a military strategist known for his “shock and awe” combat theories.

Mr. Shock and Awe himself! If this person is who I think, now I am really LMAO. Bean, have no fear: The Bush failures and hypocrisies are unraveling daily from within. Is it too early to break out the champaigne?

Comment by Swampcracker

Can Congress even defund these plans? If Congress passes a specific law, Bush could veto it. Can Congress can around a veto by not approving additional funds, or something?

Comment by Alon Levy

Good question, Alon. Well, Congress has the power of the purse. But generally the President still has to sign the budget. So I’m not sure. Frankly, Congress could bury the defunding of this in some other bill that the President really cares about and see what happens…it’s a trick the GOP has been using for quite some time now (see the minimum wage hike).

Comment by bean

How our culture could have made such a move in reverse is just astounding.

Comment by goldenferi

hey alon,

in answer to your question, one of these funding streams is up for reauthorization, so congress could simply let it expire. The other option is changing the language so that real sex ed programs would also be eligible for funding. all of this is tied up in the appropriations process, so you’re right that bush could veto the budget over the ab-only funding, but i’m hoping we’ve made that a politically stupid choice for him…

Comment by maxwell

thanks for clarifying, maxwell. Do you think there’s any chance that Congress might just let the funding streams expire? That way no presdiential action would be required either way. And I agree that it’s unlikely that Bush would veto the whole budget over ab-only…

Comment by bean

i’m not really the policy wonk expert, but yeah, i would say we’ve got a shot with the $50 mil/yr Title V abstinence-only funding stream. that’s the one that has been rejected by 9 states already and which the recent mathematica report applies to. it’s becoming pretty indefensible.

Comment by maxwell

I was also puzzled by the “increasingly indefensible” bit. Like you said, abstinence-Only Ed has been loony from the getgo, just as loony as the Welfare “Reform” (aka “Personal Responsibility Act”) that funded it in the mid-90s. I first read the Welfare Reform bill in a women’s studies class in college and was surprised to discover that all poverty is a result of wanton slutty single moms not realizing that marriage exists!

Maybe it’s a bit hyperbolic of me, but I’ve always seen deliberately telling kids in school that condoms don’t work or cause cancer as a form of negligent homicide.

Comment by Mikhaela Reid

My take on the whole marriage/welfare argument is that the connection between single motherhood and poverty weakens the further away you get from the American socioeconomic system. I read a while ago that in Sweden, single moms’ poverty rate was 4-5%, compared with 2.5% in the general population. The ability of political discussions in the US to go on without ever noting that there exist other countries used to astonish me. In the French Presidential debate, Sarkozy argued against the 35-hour workweek by saying that no EU country with lower unemployment than France has a 35-hour workweek. Can you imagine someone in the US say anything of that sort?

Also, on a more political note, now that I think about it, even if Bush vetoes a comprehensive sex-ed bill, the bill will be a positive change. Let the Presidential candidates take a position on it. Now that Giuliani’s putting the Northeast in play, taking a pro-sex ed position will even be politically expedient (speaking of which, does anyone know the candidates’ records on sex ed?).

Comment by Alon Levy

[…] Comments Alon Levy on Taking on Abstinence Only “Education”Mikhaela Reid on Taking on Abstinence Only “Education”Alon Levy on A Transgender Shelter in NYC? Great! The Times’ Article about it….Eh. aeroman on A […]

Pingback by a bird and a bottle

hey alon,

i think most candidates are generally supportive of sex ed, but in a tight spot i wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them ditch the issue. to give you an idea, none of them are cosponsors of the REAL Act, which would actually provide for comp sex ed programs.

Comment by maxwell

[…] politics Abstinence only “education” programs are chock full of misogyny and are totally ineffective. This we […]

Pingback by a bird and a bottle

[…] only “education” programs are chock full of misogyny , are hetero-centric, and are totally ineffective. This we […]

Pingback by Feministe » Congress to Call off the Ab-Only Hounds

[…] among teens. They don’t help teens prevent STDs or unintended pregnancy. And they’re misogynist and homophobic (take, for example, the program called “Sex is for Fags,” an abstinence […]

Pingback by lsrj.org » Blog Archive » The Dirty Underbelly of Ab Only




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