Thursday, May 10, 2007

Waiting for the Bling

Movement of Misinformation

There is a real movement in our country for abstinence-only education. There is Randy Wilson's Generations of Light Purity Balls where fathers take their daughters to a formal dance where they pledge to be the guardian of their daughter's purity. They may seem innocent enough, but they do not work and in some cases cause harm. There is the "Silver Ring Thing" where kids wear silver rings and make public pledges to stay celibate while being scared off from using birth control by over-estimating failure rates.

The follow misinformation has been found in federally funded abstinence-only programs: Condoms fail to prevent HIV infection 31 percent of the time during heterosexual sex. The chances of getting pregnant while using a condom are 1 in 6. And condoms break or slip off nearly 15 percent of the time.

A recent study came out as to the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education.

The most recent findings is that such programs have no effect on teenage abstinence or sexual behavior. An earlier study on abstinence only programs showed that participants delayed sexual behavior on average of 18 months and that when they do started sexual relations, they do not use any protection opening themselves and their partners to pregnancy and STDs.

This latest study did not find that the participants of abstinence only education were less likely to use birth control or protection. I am wondering if there is a difference in which abstinence only programs they studied. Programs like "Silver Ring Thing" rely heavily on misinformation and scare tactics against birth control to get young people to be abstinent, and perhaps programs like those are the ones that lead to lack of use of birth control. Maybe the earlier study, got some programs to calm down the anti-birth control rhetoric.

The bottom line from the studies is that abstinence only sex education does not work. It is a shame since so much public monies have been devoted to these programs during the Bush Administration. In 1997, only 10 million dollars were spent on such programs as part of the Welfare Reform Act. The last Republican-controlled congress allotted 176 million

for abstinence only programs and the Bush Administration wanted 191 million for 2008. Now that the Democratic party has the majority, some members are looking critically

at this mess of a program. Around 2002, even moderate Republicans have supported alternative legislation, the Family Life Education Act, which would set aside 100 million dollars for programs that taught birth control along with abstinence education.

Strange Bedfellows: Abstinence-Only & The Marriage Movement

In doing research on abstinence-only education I found that there are weird twists and turns through a vast labyrinth of religious right organizations who have been feeding off the government trough during the Bush administration. The Bush adminstration's Health and Human Services along with the Office of Faith-based and Community Services are on the front lines of the religious right's culture war. It really isn't about making kids safe or preventing unwanted pregnancies or STDs, it is about funding their culture war based on their rather extreme puritanical views.

The man who was in charge of the federal government's abstinence only program which funnelled funds to states was Wade F. Horn, the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, who recently resigned just as there were charges of cronyism with sending contracts to his wife's company through religious organizations that he granted money to and redirecting 1 million dollars to his own organization, National Fatherhood Initiative. Dissident Voice has a recent article about Wade that raises questions about his funding decisions.

Horn ended up working for Deloitte & Touche a big supporter of the Republican Party and a contractor for state computing systems. Horn will serve as a director in the organization’s Public Sector practice -- a key advisor to health and human services clients of Deloitte Consulting’s state government practice. It sounds to me a classic case of the whole revolving door between government and corporate interests.

Wade F. Horn is the co-founder of the National Fatherhood Initiative with Don Eberly and David Blankenhorn. Don Eberly is the Deputy Assistant to the President for Faith-based and Community intiatives. Eberly is the head of the Civil Society Project and has scholarly affiliations with the Institute for American Values, the Hudson Institute, and The George Gallop, Jr. International Institute.

On a side note, Eberly also acted as Acting Minister of Youth Sport in Iraq right after the invasion and the occupation, who angered the players of the Iraqi Soccer team by using their success in service of the Bush campaign for re-election.

Don Eberly has written that society's role is restraint rather than to liberate. He believes that the idea of the personal is political is a pernicious one of which feminism is the main culprit. The other founder, David Blankenhorn, is the president of the Institute for American Values. He believes that marriage can be the cure for domestic violence.(!!!)

From Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem, by David Blankenhorn. 1995. pgs. 32-39.

"...[O]ur public discussion of domestic violence almost never acknowledges, much less analyzes, differences in marital status among men who assault women. Indeed, to avoid making these distinctions, certain rules of language are widely observed. Almost without exception, journalists, legislators, academics, and advocates for battered women adhere to the convention of calling perpetrators of domestic violence "husbands" or "partners," or sometimes, even more elliptically, "husbands and boyfriends." As a result, the public repeatedly hears that men who batter women are either husbands, or well, we would prefer to to be precise."

"Male violence is rooted in families is rooted in, and sustained by, male marital privilege. Because of the causal link between marriage and violence, and because husbands are the principle victimizers of women, "wife beating" properly emerges as a generic term for male violence against a female sex partner."

"...[M]arried fatherhood emerges as the primary inhibitor of male domestic violence. By reducing the likelihood of sexual jealousy and paternal uncertainty, and by directing the male's aggression towards the support of his child and the mother of his child, married fatherhood dramatically restricts the tendency among men toward violent behavior."

So the man who was in charge of abstinence-only as sex education in this nation is heavily aligned with men who have pretty scary views on women, social services, and personal freedom.

Saying "NO" To Just-Say-No

There are a growing number of states that are opting against taking the money and ending their abstinence only curriculum: Ohio, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Montana, and

New Jersey. Just a couple of days ago, the Kansas Board of Education voted to return to comprehensive sex education sans parental permission slips from abstinence-only education with a requirement for parental permission slips for real sex education. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) late last month proposed that the state reject a $700,000 federal grant it has received annually since 1998 to teach abstinence-only sex education classes.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) on Wednesday signed into law a bill (SB 5297) that prohibits abstinence-only sex education in public schools that choose to teach sex education, the AP/Longview Daily News reports (Woodward, AP/Longview Daily News, 5/3). Under the law, public schools that choose to provide sex education will be required to discuss abstinence with students, but schools are barred from teaching abstinence without also instructing students about other issues, including contraception. Medically and scientifically accurate sex education is mandatory. The measure defines "medically and scientifically accurate" information as that which is backed by research published in peer-review journals and is considered objective. The law allows parents to review the curriculum and allows them to opt their children out of the classes after filing a written request with the school board or principal.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced yesterday that they are initiating a multi-state action calling on the federal government to fix medical inaccuracies in federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula. Eleven ACLU affiliates sent letters to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) alerting the agency to problematic curricula in their states and asking HHS to take steps to remedy the situation. According to the ACLU, three federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula, Me, My World, My Future; Sexuality, Commitment & Family; and Why kNOw, along with HHS’s own Web site and pamphlet, Parents, Speak Up!, all violate a federal law requiring certain educational materials to contain medically accurate information about condom effectiveness.

From Swift Boat to Silver Ring

Given such gloomy news, it is understandable that a lobbying group the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) has been formed to protect these programs when hundreds of

millions of funding is at stake. They have also hired Creative Response Concepts, the guys responsible for the whole Swift Boat controversy to fight for the future of abstinence only sex education. The head of the NAEA is Valerie Huber, who was the Director (or State Abstinence Coordinator for the Ohio Department of Health) of Ohio's Abstinence-only programs for the and coordinated the federal funding that was coming in.

It seems that the PR machine is already in high gear. I ran across a pro-life newsletter,, who published results of a poll of 1,000 parents saying that 83% support having their kids wait until marriage to have sex and a majority believe that sex education should reinforce abstinence. It also found that 6 out of 10 parents prefer abstinence education vs. comprehensive sex education. It is no surprise that this Zogby poll was commissioned by the NAEA itself.

Enter S. Michael Craven, Founding Director of the Center for Christ & Culture, which is a ministry of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. He grants that there are a lot of articles out there that state that abstinence-only programs don't work. Then he points to a HHS study that did come to the conclusion that such programs don't work and talks about that the study only included 4 of 900 programs out there. This is the same HHS that is very pro-abstinence only -- why they only decided to pick four out of 900 for their study brings up a lot of questions. Then Craven says that the programs studied only focus on kids from 9-11 and they didn't show their behavior four to six years later. Then he goes on to question that the programs were not which isn't sufficient since they are not at the age to absorb the message or have to deal with sexual activity. He states that programs don't work unless there is a reinforcing program in high school. So, Craven admits in a way these programs don't work as designed.

Craven goes on to state that the HHS had a conference in Baltimore had more that a dozen studies showing the positive effect of abstinence-only education. Since the HHS is pro-abstinence only education it is no surprise that they would fund research that would show a different outcome than research outside the pro-abstinence-only community. He also claims that abstinence only education is responsible for the decline. Crawling through the CDC data myself there has been a decline in young teens and teens from 15-17 having sex and the majority that wait do so for religious reasons or fear of getting a girl pregnant. My question is whether this isn't the delay of 18 months at work. Do these kids really wait for marriage before they have sex, or are they just delaying the act till they are older (i.e. College). Would the same amount of kids postpone sex in a comprehensive sex ed class?

Then he states that abstinence education teaches the social, psychological, and health gains of abstinence and that abstinence of sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school-age children. It teaches that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems. These programs teach that a mutually faithful, monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of sexual activity and that sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.

Craven goes on the programs teach that bearing children out of wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society. I am not sure if this is a positive message you want to be sending kids if you are also pro-life. All births should be welcome, if we really want to have a culture of life. We should work to remove consequences of out-of-wedlock births, shouldn't we?

I do agree with the importance of two purposes of abstinence only instruction: 1. teach young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increases vulnerability to sexual advances; 2. Teach the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity. I think these are wise things to point out to young people as they teach kids to be able to protect themselves and focus on other goals and life skills that could build their own self-esteem.

I question the motives of programs that give marriage as the only milestone to achieve to have sex. First of all gays and lesbians cannot get married, so it is basically telling 1%-10% of the population that they should never have sex. I question who's standards and morals these people want to impose on kids. Shouldn't we leave the morals and standards to parents, while schools make sure that for public health reasons that kids know how to protect themselves?

The whole shame-based, religious-based wait-til-your-married system of "sex education" doesn't really work. My birth and the birth of millions of Bastards born out-of-wedlock from 1945-1972 stand as testaments to the fact that shame and fear based sex ed doesn't work. Why should we keep pouring hundreds of millions of dollars toward this? It is time to end this cartel of morality draining the public coffers.

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