When Abstinence Only Policies Fail, Bring In The Hatchet Men to Preserve Bush’s Billion Dollar Boondoggle


Using membership dues paid in part by federal tax dollars, the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) hired the Washington, DC, public relations firm, Creative Response Concepts, best known for the 2004 "Swift Boat Veterans" ads against John Kerry, to launch a public relations effort supporting the failed and unpopular abstinence only education policies.

Without a proven proactive program of their own to reduce STDs and unintended pregnancies, NAEA is likely to attack supporters of successful public health methods, like comprehensive sexuality education. While progressives are promotiong Prevention First and Responsible Education About Life, social conservatives once again will use fear and smear to distract voters, evidenced in the hiring of Creative Response Concepts (CRC), to exagerate the influence of the fewer than 1-in-5 voters who support failed abstinence education efforts.

The leadership of NAEA also needs to be investigated. Some of them already have been. Their Advisory Committee is a who's who of those who have profited from the Bush Administration's diversion of one billion taxpayer dollars to cronies supporting abstinence only education policies.

One notable NAEA Advisor, Valerie Huber, headed Ohio abstinence programs for several years. Last year she was the subject of a state ethics probe when it was discovered she steered state contracts toward an organization in which she had a personal interest. That probe resulted in disciplinary action against Huber, but she remained in her position, under the notoriously corrupt administration of Gov. Bob Taft, whom Ohio voters rejected last year.

"It begs the question: If abstinence-only programs are actually effective in reducing long-term rates of sexually transmitted disease and unplanned pregnancy, why hire a PR firm to spin the message?" asked Earl Pike, executive director of the Cleveland-based AIDS Task Force, an organization familiar with Huber's record, as well as that of many other principles at NAEA.

Given CRC's well known track record, as well as an outline of NAEA's plan sent to recruit members and obtained by RH Reality Check, it is a safe assumption that Creative Response Concepts is less likely to promote abstinence only as they are to attack supporters of proven, evidenced-based, comprehensive sexuality education.

Specifically, the membership recruiting letter from NAEA outlines "unlimited legislative lobbying" and mobilization in "key Congressional Districts" as well as a "Rapid Response" initiative that is intended to "counter attack negative attacks on abstinence education". That last part makes one wonder if at one time a memo circulated outlining the Swift Boat ads as "rapid response to negative attacks on George Bush's military record", broadly interpreting "negative" as John Kerry simply discussing his exemplary service in Vietnam.

People advocating for comprehensive sexuality education are not negatively attacking abstinence only education, they are proactively promoting a realistic, proven public health method for reducing STDs, unintended pregnancies and equipping young people with information they need to make responsible, personal life decisions.

Stating that abstinence only education is unrealistic because studies prove it does not work, and thus is undeserving of even one federal tax dollar, is not a negative attack, it is reality.

But social conservatives are resorting to what they do best, appealing to people's fear by raising the specter of a Swift Boat like campaign running in Congresssional Districts around the country.

This campaign is not intended to scare voters, but the candidates seeking their votes. Public opinion polls indicate overwhelming support for comprehensive sexuality education and the 2006 midterm elections were a clear repudiation of the Bush Adminstration policies.

Democrats would be wise to consider caving to the intimidation tactics of NAEA and their hired guns at CRC, unless of course they want to lose the strong hold they now have on independent voters who have rejected social conservative policies after seeing them fail time and time again. Victor Gold, former Bush (41 and 43) confidant and personal friend of the Cheney's, authored Invasion of the Party Snatchers: How the Holy-Rollers and the Neo-Cons Destroyed the GOP. He says of the Bush Administration, "I really came to the conclusion that there was a threat to our system, to our way of life, and it was coming from those I thought were my people." If long-time Republicans are saying this, surely Democrats can find the backbone to stand up to NAEA and their hatchet men at CRC.

Progressives in Congress, Republican and Democrat, must stand up for reality based sexuality education efforts for teens. Not to do so would be deserving of equal or greater scorn than those who believe abstinence only education works based on an ideological bent that prevents them from looking at facts. In theory, progressives know better.

Creative Response Concepts' other clients have included the Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America, the Discovery Institute (a Seattle-based think tank that promotes "intelligent design" creationism), Regnery Publishing (a conservative publisher with David Limbaugh, David Horowitz, and Oliver North among their authors' list), the Coalition for Patient Choice (a group advocating against managed care reforms, and which includes the conservative Eagle Forum as a member), the Media Research Center (a conservative media watchdog organization which recently honored Rush Limbaugh with the "Buckley Award for Media Excellence"), and a group called USA Next (which was formed as an alternative to the "liberal activism" of the AARP).

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To schedule an interview with Scott Swenson please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • william-smith

    Scott — Many thanks for this important post. It really speaks to the state of mind that the abstinence-only-until-marriage industry finds itself in as we collectively move our proactive agendas forward in Congress and around the country. Abstinence-only-until-marriage funding has underwritten the anti-choice movement in this country for the past decade and enabled it to increase capacity at the local level that otherwise would not have been possible. This is what they are scrambling to protect — not just a smattering of junk-science programs. To this extent, I hope folks saw the bully missive fired off by Dobson to the National Association of Evangelicals where he blasted them for losing sight of "the great moral issues of our time" — of which he lists only three and one of them is "the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality."