- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 1, 2004

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 activity.

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 said.

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 abstinence programs.

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 programs.

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 HIV/AIDS transmission.

• 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 report said.

“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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