Jen Heitel Yakush is Public Policy Associate at SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the Untied States
In early June 2006, just over 200 organizations launched No More Money in an effort to stop funding for harmful and ideologically driven abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. The list of supporting organizations, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, has now reached close to 300 and ranges from HIV/AIDS organizations to pro-choice organizations, from organizations committed to GLBT rights to organizations committed to disability rights, and from education organizations to medical, scientific, and public health organizations. The Campaign exists because over $1 billion has thus far been spent on these programs. The medical community has never supported these programs and polling consistently shows that the American public agrees that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are failing our nation's young people and that government funding spent on these ideologically driven programs is a waste of valuable resources and the wrong direction for health education.
Support for these programs has even waned on Capitol Hill, as a more comprehensive and medically accurate approach is being sought by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The No More Money Campaign aims to seize on this momentum and move the agenda forward until these programs no longer receive a penny of federal funding.
In 2001, a similar group of organizations asked for No New Money for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Since the campaign launched, partners worked collectively in requesting that Congress provide "No New Money" to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Essentially, this meant asking Congress to "hold the line" by not increasing funding levels. Since then, our collective efforts in Congress have brought forward new champions and a larger group of policymakers who support an evidence-based, public health approach to sexuality education. Based on the success of the No New Money Campaign and the changing attitudes in the general public and on Capitol Hill, the original organizations decided the tide had turned and it was time for us to make the demand we had all wanted to for years-No More Money for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs..
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Since the original campaign launched, we have learned even more about the failings of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Not only do these programs contain biased and medically inaccurate information that is harming young people but Americans overwhelmingly don't want these programs taught to their youth. Instead, they want comprehensive sexuality education-education that discusses abstinence and contraception, including other topics-to be part of their child's in-school education. For the past five years, a wealth of evidence has accumulated against abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. For example, a 2004 report released by Representative Henry Waxman's found that 11 out of 13 of the most commonly used federally funded curricula contained gross medical inaccuracies. In addition, not one sound study exists proving these programs are effective or have long-term beneficial impact on young people's sexual behavior. Now that it is clear that there is no sound research supporting these programs, no support in the public health community, and no support by the American people, we are asking Congress to stop funding these harmful programs.
For far too long, these harmful programs have gone unchecked, allowing ideologically driven lawmakers to pour millions of taxpayer dollars into these programs. The No More Money Campaign is leading the charge and giving advocates the tools to change all that.
The No More Money Campaign website serves as a central clearinghouse for the basic information that most activists and media outlets need and as a central point for national advocacy efforts around key events and gives activists the opportunity to email Members of Congress and the President demanding no more money for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs domestically and internationally.
Earlier this year, No More Money partners sent sign-on letters to Congress in advance of their decisions on spending levels for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. In the past three months, since the launch of the Campaign, individuals have already sent almost 3,000 messages to Congress letting them know that they do not want their taxpayer dollars spent on these harmful and ideologically driven programs. As a result, this year marks the first time, since 1999, that the Senate and House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Subcommittees with jurisdiction over abstinence-only-until-marriage funding decided to flat fund the accounts that support abstinence-only-until-marriage programs-that is, they received the same amount of funding as last year!
The real goal of the No More Money campaign is to empower people to take action and help turn the tide away from abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. The real question, however, remains: Will policymakers truly listen to the American public? We'll need to wait till later this fall when Congress finalizes the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill. In the mean time, go to www.NoMoreMoney.org and take action by telling your Senators and Representative that you do not want one more dollar spent on these programs.
Would you like more information or are you interested in signing on as a supporter of the No More Money Campaign? Please contact Jen Heitel Yakush at [email protected] with your organization's name and contact information to join. You can also view the full list of supporting organizations.