Burying Release of Abstinence Only Report on Friday the 13th Seems Fitting

Scott Swenson

The news for the Bush Adminstration's abstinence-only policies just seems to be getting worse, some might liken it to a swiftly sinking boat or ship.

So a burial at sea is appropriate, and by releasing the latest federal report on abstinence-only, Impacts for Title V. Section 510, Abstinence Education Programs: Final Report, from Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. late on a Friday, that is exactly what the Bushies are doing.

“After 10 years and $1.5 billion in public funds these failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs will go down as an ideological boondoggle of historic proportions,” said James Waggoner, President of Advocates for Youth.

 

The news for the Bush Adminstration's abstinence-only policies just seems to be getting worse, some might liken it to a swiftly sinking boat or ship.

So a burial at sea is appropriate, and by releasing the latest federal report on abstinence-only, Impacts for Title V. Section 510, Abstinence Education Programs: Final Report, from Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. late on a Friday, that is exactly what the Bushies are doing.

“After 10 years and $1.5 billion in public funds these failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs will go down as an ideological boondoggle of historic proportions,” said James Wagoner, President of Advocates for Youth.

“The tragedy is not simply the waste of taxpayer dollars, it is the damage done to the young people who have been on the receiving end of distorted, inaccurate information about condoms and birth control. We have been promoting ignorance in the era of AIDS, and that’s not just bad public health policy, its bad ethics”.

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“This report should serve as the final verdict on the failure of the abstinence-only industry in this country,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS). “It shows, once again, that these programs fail miserably in actually helping young people behave more responsibly when it comes to their sexuality,” Smith continued.

In 1996, the federal government attached a provision to the welfare reform law establishing a federal program for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. This program, Section 510(b) of Title V of the Social Security Act, dedicated $50 million per year to be distributed among states that choose to participate. States accepting the funds are required to match every four federal dollars with three state-raised dollars (for a total of $87.5 million annually, and $787.5 million for the eight years from fiscal year 1998 through 2006). Programs that receive the Title V funding are prohibited from discussing methods of contraception, including condoms, except in the context of failure rates.

On a call yesterday organized by the Abstinence Clearinghouse, abstinence-only proponents were clearly rocked by the potentially ruinous news in the report. High profile abstinence-only advocate, Robert Rector, led the preemptive damage-control planning. He outlined several strategies the abstinence-only movement could use to rationalize the findings in the report saying, “The other spin I think is very important is not [program] effectiveness, but rather the values that are being taught,” Rector said. Whether or not these programs work is a “bogus issue,” Rector continued.

Noting that the study was posted on a Government web-site with no press release or advisory, Wagoner said: “The ‘stealth release’ of this study on an obscure government website on a Friday afternoon is clearly meant to bury its contents. But policy makers must now know that funds for these programs must now be eliminated”.

Citing the fact that the Institute of Medicine, the nation’s leading health authority, had called for the elimination of these programs back in 2000, Wagoner said: “Congress must now move to de-fund these programs. Anything short of eliminating these programs would be a dereliction of its duty to promote public health and protect young people in the era of AIDS”.

Tune in next week for more coverage of this report.

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