As Wall Street Plunges, More Culture War Ads, Funded by Ab-Only Profiteer

Scott Swenson

As news about the economy gets worse for most Americans, one multimillionaire who has profited from abstinence-only-until-marriage programs is the primary funder of the latest battle in the Culture War.

On a day when most Americans are looking at the news from Wall Street, as markets plunge, comes word from far-right social conservatives that one multimillionaire funder will attempt to distract voters with independent television advertising on more Culture War issues.

Last week featured the now resoundingly discredited lies about age appropriate comprehensive sex ed, discredited even by Karl Rove on Fox News Sunday when he said, "McCain has similarly gone, in his ads, one step too far and sort of attributing to Obama, things that are, you know, beyond the 100% truth test."

Those lies were about legislation in Illinois promoting comprehensive sex ed, that clearly stated in Section 2, Lines 11 and 12, that all sex ed curriculum would be "age appropriate."  For Kindergartners, that meant teaching kids "good touch, bad touch" lessons to protect them from pedophiles and predators.

The abstinence-only-until-marriage crowd pushed the McCain campaign one step too far, even for Karl Rove. Now one of abstinence-only’s chief profiteers, Raymond Ruddy, a wealthy multimillionaire, is going to be the primary funder of an independent advertising campaign that will attack Obama on the also discredited, by FactCheck.org, claims that he supports infanticide.

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Social conservatives — emboldened by the addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket — are promoting Culture War issues to shift the focus away from the economy, housing, energy, the environment and national security.  In the process, the debate Americans could be having on these critical issues is being distorted — as is the reality about sexual and reproductive health. 

Who can blame the far-right when at stake in the election is their access to government grants to continue profiting from their failed abstinence-only programs; their efforts to ban all abortions, even in the case of rape and incest; and to reduce access to contraception by allowing individual medical professionals to redefine contraception as abortion, as the Bush Administration is currently attempting to do.

The ad will be emotionally powerful and manipulative, but in the end it is being funded primarily by one multimillionaire, whose company Maximus, has benefited from more than $100 million dollars in government grants during the Bush Administration. That fact won’t likely appear in the :30 second ad or many mainstream media reports.  Meanwhile, wars still rage, the economy is in decline, the environment is a mess, and Americans with jobs are concerned about losing them, and those without health care are wondering what to do if they get sick.

Raymond Ruddy, the multimillionaire behind the ads, will be okay though. Don’t worry about him when you see his ads or hear the media reports about them. 

 

 

Roundup: Senate Rejects “Big Gov’t” Public Option, But Votes to Restore Big Gov’t Ab-Only Programs

Jodi Jacobson

In a stunning bit of hypocrisy probably not immediately evident to Senators who think that maternity care is not important enough to warrant insurance coverage, the Senate Finance committee rejected inclusion of a public option under health reform, but voted to restore funding for abstinence-only-until marriage programs.

In a stunning bit of hypocrisy probably not immediately evident to Senators who think that maternity care is not important enough to warrant insurance coverage, the Senate Finance committee rejected inclusion of a public option under health reform, but voted to restore funding for abstinence-only-until marriage programs.

According to the Washington Post:

Twice on Tuesday, the committee beat back efforts to create a
government-run insurance plan as part of the bill, dealing a crippling
blow to the hopes of liberals seeking to expand the federal role in
health coverage as a cornerstone of reform.

Even Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat, voted against the public option.  The Post reports:

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Finance committee members rejected two amendments
that would have created a public option. The votes were 15 to 8 and 13
to 10. Baucus, who has emerged as the central player in shaping the
bill, was one of three Democrats who voted ‘no’ on both proposals.
Baucus said he supports the principle of a public option as an
alternative to private insurance. But he warned that including it could
doom the bill to a Republican filibuster.

"No one has been able to show me how we can count up to 60 votes
with a public option," Baucus said. "I want a bill that can become
law."

It remains unclear why the Democrats persist in this strategy of seeking 60 votes when they can pass a health care bill under Senate rules with 51 votes.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a large majority of doctors is in favor of a public option. One survey suggests more than three-quarters of Americans are in favor of a public option. Writing on Huffington Post, Sam Stein reviews the findings:

More than three out of every four Americans feel it is important to
have a "choice" between a government-run health care insurance option
and private coverage, according to a public opinion poll released on
Thursday.

A new study by SurveyUSA puts support for a public option at a robust 77 percent, one percentage point higher than where it stood in June.

Apparently, however, we can’t get a majority of that all-exclusive club, the Senate Finance Committee, to support a public option, despite having elected a majority of Democrats to office and a Democratic President who promised "change," but is bringing business as usual in the form of cutting deals that benefit Pharma and not the public.

Meanwhile, a gaggle of Senators from small states (in terms of actual numbers of people in need of health care, not land mass) is holding the public option hostage to charges of ….wait for it…..big government.  Original, I know.

Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, a major critic of a proposed public option because it is "big government," "a government takeover," and so on….you know the drill…..apparently does not feel the same way when it comes to collecting farm subsidies from the federal government, of which Iowa receives a huge amount of federal largesse, including over $15 billion in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2005, and $1.1 billion in farm subsidy payments in 2007 alone to people who were, at the time, actually quite dead.  I don’t know….given this information, do you think that by eschewing good health care, Iowa actually benefits?  Dead people receiving farm subsidies don’t need health care, but they’re still payin’ into the system! 

I guess ‘big government" is good for some of the Senators some of the time, but not for those same Senators all of the time?

Big government is never a problem for these same Senators when the conversation turns to whether the government can tell you whether or not to have sex (who to love, how to marry….you get the point), but also refuses to hew to evidence when it comes to spending your money on sexual health education.

Example: In a stunning turn on the same day, the Finance Committee  voted to restore funding for completely discredited abstinence-only programs.  The Post reports:

Senators also voted Tuesday to restore federal funding for
abstinence-only education, which Obama had proposed to eliminate.
Conrad and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) joined all 10 Republicans on the
Finance Committee in adding the $50 million-a-year program to the
health care bill. 

"Late last night," says a statement by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US (SIECUS):

[T]he Senate Finance Committee approved an amendment offered by Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to fund a comprehensive sex education funding stream, The Personal Responsibility Education for Adulthood Training. The amendment provides $75 million for states; $50 million of which would be geared to evidence-based, medically accurate, age-appropriate programs to educate adolescents about both abstinence and contraception in order to prevent unintended teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. The remaining funds would be for innovative programs as well as research and evaluation.  The amendment passed 14–9 with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe (ME) joining all the Democrats voting in favor.

At the same time, notes SIECUS, "there was also a vote on an amendment introduced by Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) that reinstated funding for the failed Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program which had expired on June 30, 2009," which, again, passed 12–11 with the help of Democratic Senators Blanche Lincoln (AR) and Kent Conrad (ND) joining all the Republicans on the Committee in favor.  Now there’s bipartisanship at work.  

SIECUS notes that:

Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding had been refused by nearly half of the states both because of the restrictive nature of the program and the fact that overwhelming evidence has proven these programs to be ineffective and a waste of taxpayer dollars.  This amendment would direct $50 million a year through FY 2014 for the extension of the Title V abstinence-only programs.

“This amendment takes a giant step backward by restoring funding for the failed and discredited abstinence-only-until-marriage program for the states,” stated William Smith, Vice President for Public Policy at SIECUS. “However, because this program so clearly doesn’t work and half the states don’t even participate, we are confident it will be stripped from the final bill and ask Congressional leaders and the White House to ensure this happens.”

Smith cautions that:

Both amendments still face several potential hurdles in committee, on the Senate floor, and in conference with the House before they become law.

So…next time you think of those "representatives of the people" you might remember that 85 percent of the public support comprehensive sex ed, but that many of our representatives continue to vote against it, and more than three-quarters of the public supports the public option, but that at least the Senate Finance Committee isn’t votin’ for it.

Make sense?

So if your conservative representatives have their way, "big government" won’t protect your life or your health in relation to preventable or treatable illnesses, but will be there with you in your bed.  Hope you have a king-size.

Other News:


September 30th:

Daily Collegian: Ethnically motivated violence not comparable to abortion

HuffPo: GOP Rep. Trent Franks Calls Obama "An Enemy Of Humanity"

Public News Service: Ohio Legislation Aims to Curb Unwanted Teen Pregnancies

Capital Xtra: Countering the anti-abortion protests on Bank St

Socialist Worker: The anti-choice deception

Town Hall: Should Government Have E-Record of Every Woman Who’s Had an Abortion?

PRWeb: The
US Drug Watchdog Initiates a National Investigation of the Birth
Control Pills Called Yaz and Yasmin Over Possible Heart Attacks and
Strokes

September 29

Newsbusters: Dan Rather to Be Keynote Speaker at Planned Parenthood Event

NARAL Ohio: NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Supports Re-introduction of Ohio Prevention First Act

East Valley Tribune: Goddard wrong to avoid abortion cases

Examiner: Health care legislation could end insurance coverage for abortion nationwide

AP: Arizona congressman opposed to abortion clarifies remark calling Obama an ‘enemy of humanity’

Naples News: School Board agrees to add contraception education to sex ed policy

Korea Times: 96,000 Women Have Abortions Over Medicine

AP: Judge blocks key parts of new Arizona abortion law

MLive: Women challenge Okla. abortion law

LifeNews: Tennessee Man Kills Pregnant Girlfriend, Unborn Baby After Abortion Refusal

BeliefNet: Democratic Ineptitude on Abortion?

TPM: Pro-Life Activist: "It’s A Shame" That The GOP Has Picked A Pro-Choicer In NY-23

LifeNews: Planned Parenthood Gives Late-Term Abortion Practitioner George Tiller Top Award

NARAL Virginia: Chris Stolle and The Family Foundation

LifeNews: Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly to Vote on Pro-Abortion Report Friday

Catholic Online: Contraception: At Odds with Truth

LifeNews: Key Pro-Life Democrat Finally Get Mtg With Nancy Pelosi on Abortion, Health Care

Huffpo: Panel Votes to Restore Ab-Only Funding

Getting Past No: What Happens Once Schools Turn Down Ab-Only?

Anna Clark

Rejecting abstinence-only funding is only one part of the movement to educate and empower young people; we also need to pro-actively normalize comprehensive, medically-accurate sexuality education in American schools.

The numbers have reached a tipping point: 25 states have
rejected federal Title V funds for abstinence-only programs, including
traditionally conservative states such as Wyoming and Alaska. And eighty
percent of them said no because of research revealing that the ineffectiveness of
ab-only programs puts U.S. teenagers at risk, says the Sexuality
Education and Information Council of the United States (SEICUS). Citing the
same evidence, individual school districts from Cleveland to Washington, D.C.,
are rejecting financial bribes to teach an abstinence-only curriculum in favor
of a more comprehensive curriculum.

No doubt this is reason to cheer. But rejecting
abstinence-only funding is only one part of the movement to educate and empower
young people; we also need to pro-actively normalize comprehensive,
medically-accurate sexuality education in American schools.

"Turning back ab-only funds won’t stop ab-only teaching,"
said Bill Smith, SEICUS vice president for public policy. "At least, it’s not a
guarantee."

Despite the momentum against ab-only funds, Smith said that
there hasn’t been a proportional uptick in comprehensive sex ed programs – and
there won’t be one if there continues to be no federal investment. Ab-only
curricula took their hold in U.S. classrooms precisely because of the strong
funding structure for those programs, Smith said.  It’s not merely the absence
of ab-only funding that will translate into comprehensive sex ed programs;
rather, comprehensive programs need a strong funding structure of their own in
order to be normalized. After all, up-to-date and accurate textbooks and
teacher training don’t come free even to the most well-intentioned school
districts.

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While the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and
Pittsburgh Public Schools are among the relatively few districts that are
finding ways to support more comprehensive sex education, the question is: how much more comprehensive are they? Are
the sex ed programs in these pioneering districts truly medically accurate and
age appropriate? Or do alternative funding and curriculum models carry their
own set of restrictions and limitations?

The Cleveland Model

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District launched a K-12
comprehensive program in 2006, a program that Smith points to as "probably further
advanced and more progressive" than any other in the country.

It started in 2006 when Cuyahoga County leaders decided to
re-allocate TANF and City of Cleveland dollars away from an abstinence-only
curriculum and towards a comprehensive one. County commissioners made the shift
as a response to community leaders and parents who showed them the evidence of
the link between the district’s ab-only program and the county’s troubling
health statistics.

"That was a leadership position the county took," said
Laureen Tews Harbert, program director of Cleveland’s AIDS Funding
Collaborative.

The more comprehensive curriculum was funded almost entirely
by TANF dollars in its first year, according to Marsha Egbert, senior program
officer of The George Gund Foundation, a Cleveland-based private nonprofit that
provides operating support for the new curriculum. But CMSD couldn’t rely on
TANF: it only had three years of support that incrementally diminished each
year. The three-year window for TANF funding expired in December 2008.

"The short term time frame on the TANF support accelerated
our effort to bring support for the program fully in house," said Egbert.

CMSD evolved its model into one of diversified funding,
including private support, and internal capacity.

"At first, we delegated the sex ed teaching to outside,
specially-designated professionals responsible for this course alone," Harbert
said. "That was costly. The model evolved, with a concerted effort, to train
health and PE teachers to be responsible for the bulk of the curriculum."

Training existing staff makes CMSD’s sex education a more
sustainable model, Harbert added.

Further, CMSD replaced lower TANF funds with support from
The George Gund Foundation and The Cleveland Foundation. CMSD also partners with
Harbert’s AIDS Funding Collaborative for the annual evaluation of the new
curriculum. The City of Cleveland continues to provide funding as well through
community development block grants.

"Having a variety of funders who have a stake in the program
speaks well for its future success and the community buy-in," Harbert said. "At
the same time, building our internal capacity for comprehensive sex ed makes us
more sustainable because we’re less dependent on outside support."

So what does Cleveland’s program look like? Is it really
comprehensive?

Formally called the Responsible Sexual Behavior Education
Initiative, the Cleveland model appears to be one of the only K-12 integrated
sex education programs (that is, a program that builds on each previous year),
if it’s not the only. According to
Egbert, the curriculum includes information about contraceptive use, sexually
transmitted diseases, and a "tremendous amount on emotional and social
development, including refusal skills and negotiation skills. That to me is a
critical part. Students can get the facts, but it’s important to teach ways for
them to make the facts work in their lives."

As well, the Cleveland program partners with the nonprofit
Scenarios USA, which uses scriptwriting and film to "capture the voices of
reproductive health and sex topics," Egbert said. Fifteen million people each year see the short films from
Scenarios USA at film festivals, in schools, and on television.

How, though, is the Responsible Sexual Behavior Initiative
working?

Philliber Research Associates, the external evaluator of the
effectiveness of Cleveland’s sexuality education, indicates in its 2007-2008
report that the program reached 26,326 K-12 students. Health and PE teachers
newly trained for sexuality education were rated highly for their abilities to
teach about dating, gender roles, HIV/STDs prevention, reproductive anatomy,
decision-making skills, puberty, and pregnancy prevention.

However, those same teachers were rated as "least able to
teach" about community resources, sexual abuse prevention, and sexual
orientations. They also were described as "less comfortable discussing" condom
use, sexual intercourse, and sexual orientation with students.

The evaluation also indicates that after participating in
the new Cleveland curriculum, significantly more students disagreed
with the statements, "I would have sex with someone even if I really don’t want
to" and "If a partner refused to wear a condom, I would probably give in and
have sex with him/her."

Compared to students who hadn’t yet participated in the
programs, those who participated in Cleveland’s sexuality education showed
significantly improved knowledge and skill sets across all grade levels.

"There’s still a lot of work to be done" in making the
program fully comprehensive, said Egbert. "Particularly in making the different
parts of the program mesh. But we’re committed to improving the program each
year."

Such a commitment is wonderful news for Cleveland, and
especially the city’s young people. But what stands out is the rarity of its
curriculum. Even with its gaps, there is no other one like it in the
nation-even in those school districts that are re-evaluating ab-only funding
and programs. Egbert noted that when Cleveland first set out to develop its
K-12 comprehensive curriculum, it found no models existed-not in school-based
forms that were rigorously evaluated, at least.

Piecing Together Models

Harbert noted that Cleveland’s K-12 curriculum for
age-appropriate sex education was so uncommon, administrators had to piece
together a new model based on four different model curriculums to create one
that was evidence-based and age-appropriate.

"It does seem like we’ve received a number of inquiries from
other school districts about our model," Harbert said. "Our research shows
we’re pretty unique in offering this – there’s just not a lot of models out
there."

Curriculum for any school district is accepted or rejected
by the school district. According to Howell, districts often hire someone who
is a curriculum specialist to implement guidelines. Without strong models of
sex ed syllabi, it’s easy for even well-intentioned districts to have holes in
their curriculum. 

Pittsburgh’s "Abstinence-Plus"

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Public Schools, for example, is a
district that announced just weeks ago that it’ll move away from its model of
abstinence-only-until-marriage and begin teaching "about contraception, dating
and alternative lifestyles … (as well as) sexual orientation, marriage and life
commitments, sexual dysfunction, sexual abuse and gender roles," reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Citing the city’s high teen pregnancy
rate, the new policy passed the school board with an 8-1 vote.

"The change in Pittsburgh happened because parents called
into question what their kids are being taught," Smith said. "Which shows you
how attention paid to the issue is how change happens."

It’s a positive step towards better educating students.
However, this more comprehensive model is uneven. Described as "abstinence-plus,"
the program will still emphasize abstinence as the best choice for students and
will not distribute or demonstrate contraceptives or contraception methods.

Developing a Comprehensive Model

Champions of comprehensive sex ed are working to remedy such
a patchy application of comprehensive sexuality education by developing model
curricula. Advocates for Youth, for example, offers sample lesson plans on its
website that indicate what kids should be learning at each age. It includes
plans for teaching about body image, addressing discrimination, reducing sexual
risk, and discerning your own values about your sexuality.

More expansively, SEICUS, Advocates for Youth and Answer
pulled together national leaders in December 2008 for a Future of Sex Education
project. The task? "To develop national guidelines for what we mean with
comprehensive sex education," Smith said.

These national guidelines – which will include information
about contraception, sexual orientations, gender identity, sexual abuse, and,
yes, even choosing abstinence – continue to be developed in collaboration.

In the meantime, advocacy organizations are focused on
convincing governments to redirect abstinence-only funds to support the kind of
comprehensive sex ed programs that are proven to reduce teen pregnancy and
STDs.

States can take the initiative.

California is recognized for never having accepted ab-only
funds from the federal government, but rather prioritizing comprehensive
education with a law that, according to Marcela Howell, vice-president of Advocates for Youth, says that districts don’t have
to teach sex ed, but if they do, they must include particular information – like
STD treatment and prevention and the effectiveness of all FDA-approved
contraceptives – that is part of the comprehensive vision.

States can plug the hole in federal investment by taking
responsibility for its own dollars. "The State of Florida squandered its own $17 million spent
on ab-only since 2002," Smith said.
"If they can invest $17 million in ab-only programs, they
can spend it on a more comprehensive program."

For the most wide-ranging impact, national organizations
turn their attention to top.

"What we’re like to see is, under a new Congress, under a
new White House with a president who’s made a commitment to comprehensive sex
education, we have a very simple ask: Stop funding the bad programs and start
funding the good ones," Howell said.

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