Sex, Lies, and Federal Money

Every year when I was in high
school in Lubbock, Texas, we were herded into the auditorium for a lecture
from a local youth pastor about the birds and the bees. 

At the culmination of every
presentation, the pastor pulled a girl up on stage, produced a dirty,
dingy toothbrush from his pocket and asked if she would brush her teeth
with it.  When she invariably said no, he pulled out another toothbrush,
this one in its original box, and repeated the question. When she said yes to that one, he brandished the rejected toothbrush above
his head and announced to the audience, "If you have sex before marriage,
are the dirty toothbrush." 

Leading advocates for a sensible, comprehensive federal sex education policy call on Congress to zero out funding for failed abstinence-only programs.

A report recently released
on the state of sex education in Texas details other bizarre things
students are taught in the classroom about sex, contraception and their
bodies, all subsidized by federal dollars. One skit titled "Jumping
Off the Bridge" concludes that giving a condom to a teen is like
saying, "Well if you insist on killing yourself by jumping off
the bridge, at least wear these elbow pads." Another presentation
equates pre-marital sex with instances of marital murder-suicide.  Still
another compares women’s sexuality to crock pots that take awhile
to get warmed up, and men’s to microwaves that are ready to cook at
a moment’s notice. 

An entire generation of American
teens has been confused, misinformed and endangered by abstinence-only-until-marriage
programs like these. They are not just paid for by the federal government;
states can’t use these dollars for anything else.  

In the past fifteen years alone,
more than a billion taxpayer dollars have been doled out to every state
to teach curricula that often contain factual inaccuracies about condoms
and contraceptives, generalizations about sexuality that are based on
biases about gender and sexual orientation, and religious messaging
that probably violates the U.S. Constitution. 

The programs were a pet project
of the Bush administration, and key to attracting votes and contributions
from the religious right. Now, much of the money is still being doled
out to faith-based organizations and crisis pregnancy centers, the latter
often stating as their sole purpose the convincing of pregnant women,
including ten and twelve year-olds and their families, that having an
abortion will mean a lifetime of regret.  

Unbelievable as it may sound,
there is no federal law mandating or supervising the medical or scientific
accuracy of information taught in schools or given out in tax-exempt
pregnancy centers, a loophole used to tell young people that condoms
don’t work, homosexuality is never part of normal human behavior and
sexuality is the one academic subject in which students will be rewarded
for lack of knowledge.  

In fact, abstinence-only sex
education is so damaging that 25 governors, Republicans and Democrats,
have refused abstinence-only funds. Rising rates of sexually transmitted
infections, unwanted teen births and an increased need for abortion
have dramatized the lack of efficacy and danger of such programs.  And
last year, the Journal of Adolescent Health published its opinion that
abstinence-only funding may constitute a human rights violation.  

The huge majority of Americans
agree. Eighty-eight percent think teens should receive information about condoms and
contraception as well as abstinence in the classroom. Yet, no moves
have been made in Washington to make good on these convictions.  

If President Obama and Democratic
leaders were to fulfill their own promises it could only be a financial
win. The public costs associated with teen pregnancy alone total more
than nine billion dollars a year, with additional costs of treating
sexually transmitted infections. Economic impact statements have shown
that every dollar spent on comprehensive sex education would be one
of the few good investments these days. Failing to eliminate all funding
for abstinence-only programs would be a setback for human rights and
tempt a suit for taxpayer fraud.  

President Obama and Speaker
Pelosi, if you have to throw a bone to the right wing, let it not be
the bones of the youth who elected you. The young people who so overwhelmingly
voted for change – partly on the promise of comprehensive sex education
– are certainly not asking for a bailout. We just want the facts that
can save our lives.  

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  • invalid-0

    Send this video to your member of Congress NOW! Just do it. If you have blog, post it to your blog, facebook or myspace account. Send it to your parents, children, family. This ab-only craze is whack, it must end, we the people must end it. Do something NOW!

  • invalid-0

    I had my first child at 17 and therefore I made sure my children were educated on sex and how sex makes little human beings that NEED lots of care and cost alot of money and alot of responsibilities. Thank my god they listened, out of all 4 of them my daughter waited and is 26 and still is the ONLY one having children. I argue with parents whom believe giving out condoms and safe sex info is giving them permission? They are so ignorant! and in DENIAL about everything it seems!
    If I could go back to my teen years and a guy broke out a condom? I would have such awesome respect for him! It is TIME WE parents TEACH OUR kids how SERIOUS sex is! for example my daughter graduated from medical school and e-mailed me a disgusting pic of female venerial warts! It is so disgusting and I believe that ugly very truthful pic should be plastered in every school in america!!
    It is also time that we fire the reps in OUR governments whom represent their corporate bosses and NOT their constituents!
    I believe we teach by example as does the mother bear, what type of example are we showing our youth? What kind of example has our governments shown our kids? It is time to actually TEACH our youth how to survive in THIS world and just because evil lurks doesn’t mean we have to join them! STAND for what is right and therefore you TEACH your children to demand justice, education and government reform, as the way they are going they will destroy our awesome planet with their idiocies!

  • nancy5

    Spot on, Shelby. Giving students access to medically accurate sex ed should be a no brainer. But alas, it’s going to continue to be a fight for so long as our Congress would rather devote its time trying unsuccessfully to suppress the sexual proclivities of teenagers rather than regulating the genuinely worrisome excesses of Wall Street.

  • invalid-0

    Thanks for the video. I was not familiar with some of the statistics, such as the $9 billion that teen pregnancy costs per year and the $6.5 billion associated with teen STDs. That’s not pocket change.

    Also, the brief mention of “community-based” channels for abstinence-only funding even in states that have refused it underscores the need for strong organizing at the local level. If that money is being disbursed, it is presumably because some local officials are sympathetic to the abstinence agenda. Grassroots activism has to include a focus on this level of governance, which the right learned long ago.

    The one point I would add is that many of us think that while abstinence-only education is catastrophically wrong from the standpoint of public health, it would still be wrong at another level even if it successfully prevented teen pregnancy and STDs. These decisions are personal; teens making them deserve neither social pressure from peers nor moral indoctrination from school administrators. We ought to be able to deliver support and honest information to young people, just as we would aim to do with patients facing less politically charged health decisions and challenges.

    • invalid-0

      Our main problems have social character is a deterioration of training, lawlessness and criminality, a problem of the homeless, crash of family values, the public health services crisis, the become frequent cases of pregnancy at girls-teenagers.

      Drudgeries of the emancipated woman – only florets, on comparisons with berries: according to the modern statistics of 80 % of the criminals who are serving time in prisons worldwide, – natives of incomplete families, 90 % of teenage pregnant women also it is necessary on the girls who have grown in incomplete families.

  • invalid-0

    Well, I agree, such type of education like toothbrush can lead to dramatically bad consequences for teens. This only confuses them instead of giving them really important information about sex, biology and relationships.

  • invalid-0

    It was said enough about abstinence only education and its negative impact on teens. But I can’t even express my indignation on moment in your story about pastor who gave sex ed lessons! It’s awful! Church is not only against the pre-marital sex, but even against the condoms! Amen to that!

  • invalid-0

    I really think a lot of these scare tactics combined with parents who wont allow their children to take sex education courses really has an opposite effect. I had 3 girls in my class in high school who were not allowed to attend health class during sex ed, and once they went away to college they went on “freedom overload”, two got pregnant before the end of their freshman years and the other wound up HIV positive a couple years later. Its a sad example, but it’s important to not only have education on the matter, but have it done in a reasonable discussion time manner, rather than a scare tactic that young teens are bound to rebel against.