The GAO released a legal opinion yesterday affirming that abstinence-only education materials must include accurate information on sexually transmitted infections and the effectiveness of condoms. To date, HHS had insisted that materials produced by abstinence grantees do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Public Health Service Act, which mandates as much. HHS has instead maintained that:
"Grantees may address issues related to [STIs] in communicating the importance of abstinence, they are to address these issues only within the broader context of abstinence education."
The GAO's legal review came at the request of Congressional dems including the ever-muckraking Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). Remember, it was Waxman's 2004 report on abstinence-only sex education curricula that found rampant inaccuracies. Read on...
Advocates for Youth.org calls 'abstinence-only' sex ed "dangerous, ineffective, and inaccurate."
Among their findings:
The Society for Adolescent Medicine recently declared that "abstinence-only programs threaten fundamental human rights to health, information, and life."[8,11]
- According to Columbia University researchers, virginity pledge programs increase pledge-takers' risk for STIs and pregnancy. The study concluded that 88 percent of pledge-takers initiated sex prior to marriage even though some delayed sex for a while. Rates of STIs among pledge-takers and non-pledgers were similar, even though pledge-takers initiated sex later. Pledge-takers were less likely to seek STI testing and less likely to use contraception when they did have sex.[20,21]
- Evaluations of the effectiveness of state-funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs found no delay in first sex. In fact, of six evaluations that assessed short-term changes in behavior, three found no changes, two found increased sexual activity from pre- to post-test, and one showed mixed results. Five evaluations looked for but found no long-term impact in reducing teens' sexual activity.
- Analysis of data from Youth Risk Behavior surveys found that sexual activity among high school youth declined significantly from 1991 to 1997, prior to large-scale funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, but changed little from 1999 to 2003 with federal funding of such programs.
- Analysis of federally funded abstinence-only curricula found that over 80 percent of curricula supported by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services contained false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health. Specifically, they conveyed:
- False information about the effectiveness of contraceptives;
- False information about the risks of abortion;
- Religious beliefs as scientific fact;
- Stereotypes about boys and girls as scientific fact; and
- Medical and scientific errors of fact.