It happens all the time –– when Congress begins drafting appropriations bills dealing with the funding of sex education, the left starts undermining abstinence programs. The federal government disproportionately supports those sex education programs prominently featuring condom distribution from Planned Parenthood and other organizations that argue: "Teens are going to have sex anyway, so the best response is to teach teens to protect themselves and encourage them to practice ‘safe' sex." In fact, for every $12 spent on condom-based programs, only $1 is spent funding abstinence programs. Yet when appropriations hearings are held, you can count on well-timed research being released to "prove" that the few and relatively new abstinence programs don't work. The left vehemently argues that the government is throwing money away to support abstinence programs. Translation: All the federal money should go to the groups promoting "safe sex" through the use of condoms.
Often, the attacks are extreme and partisan. For instance, this weekend, the media, including the Washington Post, gave considerable attention to a 20-page document from The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Advocates for Youth and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) that simply regurgitated previous attacks on three abstinence programs. The letter criticized statistics from a 1993 program and attacked a program no longer published and one that has been updated and revised. Obviously, such unfounded criticism puts a political agenda before honest evaluation –– never mind students' well-being.
Last week, Mathematica Policy Research Inc. released a study of abstinence programs that was widely disseminated even though it was a very limited study –– only four early abstinence programs –– and was based on flawed methodology. The targeted children were in abstinence programs at age 9-11 and had no follow-up before being evaluated when they were 15-16 years of age.
The misleading Mathematica study made headlines in all media. An alarmist MSNBC report was headlined, "Blind faith on sex-ed approach puts kids at risk." The politically-motivated subheading declared, "Bullheaded Bush administration puts abstinence ideology before lives." The Christian Science Monitor put a positive headline on a very negative article. The headline: "Honesty about abstinence-only: To confront the apparent failures of these programs is not to give up on teen abstinence as a standard [emphasis added]." In spite of the headline, however, the article used 13 paragraphs to explain how abstinence programs have produced "zero effect. That's right: zero."
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