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U.S. Government Report: Abstinence Programs Lie

Last week, (last week in December 2004) Congressmember Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a superb, readable report, "The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs." It's a concise evaluation of the thirteen most popular abstinence-only sex ed programs.

So it's now official; a government agency documents that "over 80% of the abstinence-only curricula used by 2/3 of [federally funded programs] contain false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health." Especially common were:

* False information about the effectiveness of contraception
* False information about the risk of abortion
* Blurring religion and science
* Treating stereotypes of girls and boys as scientific fact
* Scientific errors

Here are actual quotes from these federally-funded programs that actual children in actual American schools are now reading and hearing:

* "In heterosexual sex, condoms fail to prevent HIV approximately 31% of the time"
* Touching another person's genitals "can result in pregnancy."
* "The popular claim that condoms help prevent the spread of STDs is not supported by the data."
* "Women gauge their happiness and judge their success by their relationships. Men's happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments."
* "Couples who use condoms to avoid a pregnancy have a failure rate of 15%."
* "Following abortion, according to some studies, women are more prone to suicide."
* Personal problems "can be eliminated by being abstinent until marriage."

The Religious Right's response (e.g., Morality in Media, Focus on the Family, Agape Press) was predictable: they trashed Waxman. They link him to same-sex marriage. They attack him for quoting Planned Parenthood data. They criticize his acceptance of campaign contributions from "groups that financially benefit from abortion," like the American Medical Association. They complain that he didn't mention all the funding for safer sex programs. They say he's being picky.

But they couldn't attack the science--because it's clear as an Iowa day after a summer thundershower.

How did the Bush Administration, obsessed with whether or not kids are doing it, respond? With thunderous silence--except for one delicious, if terrifying, moment.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist happened to be on ABC-TV News' "This Week" after the report's release. Asked whether tears and sweat can transmit HIV (as falsely claimed in some abstinence curricula), physician Frist (who insists on being addressed as Doctor) first said, "I don't know;" when pressed several times, he finally said, "You can get the virus in tears and sweat. But in terms of infecting somebody, it would be very hard." The federal CDC website is absolutely clear: "Contact with saliva, tears, or sweat has never been shown to result in transmission of HIV." Frist also repeated the abstinence-education lie that condoms fail 15% of the time, when the actual rate is less than 3%.

Ironically, Frist's website boasts that he is "particularly passionate about confronting the global AIDS pandemic, frequently taking medical mission trips to Africa" and continuing "to raise awareness about the HIV/AIDS crisis throughout the world." Frist is a disgrace to the MD that follows his name. And he is in clear violation of the AMA's Code of Medical Ethics requiring doctors to "be honest in all professional interactions" and to "make relevant information available to the public."

Waxman's historic report may help undercut the federal crusade that has lavished hundreds of millions of dollars on the fantasy of sexless kids. Contempt for science should have no place in public policy.

Reprinted from Sexual Intelligence, ©Marty Klein, Ph.D. (

To read Waxman's exciting report go to

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