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Groups Challenge Govâ€TMt Funding of Abstinence-only Sex-ed

by Brendan Coyne

Sept. 14, 2005 – Citing recent reports showing flaws in the accuracy and efficacy of abstinence-based sex education and the federal government’s own rules for funding programs, two groups filed a complaint yesterday with the Department of Health and Human Services seeking to cut federal money from programs promoting abstinence-only sexual education.

The organizations are calling for an immediate cessation of funding for "programs that fail to provide medically accurate, complete sexual health information."

In a statement announcing the joint filing with the Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), Advocates for Youth President James Wagoner said the organizations were utilizing a little-noticed law conservative groups use to censor information that could potentially harm companies.

"Turnabout is fair play," said Wagoner. "We'll use this and any other tool at our disposal to ensure that youth receive honest and accurate sex education."

The Data Quality Act, a law quietly included in the 2000 federal budget, empowers the White House Office of Budget and Management to ensure programs receiving federal funds "provide policy and procedural guidance to federal agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by federal agencies."

A variety of organizations have challenged the use and application of the law. In August, OMB Watch detailed how businesses have used the act to manhandle Environmental Protection Agency decisions.

But the groups Advocates for Youth and SIECUS intend to use the Act to seek a shift away from federal support of often inaccurate sex-ed curriculum preferred by he Bush administration.

The changes are sought as the volume of information casting doubt on abstinence-only programs grows. According to several recent studies, sex-ed programs that focus solely on abstinence often provide incomplete, misleading and at times outright false information.

A congressional study, commissioned by Democratic Representative Henry Waxman of California last year detailed a growing credibility problem for such programs. In that study, researchers reviewed the 13 most-used abstinence-only curricula funded by federal grants. They found that 11 of courses contained major errors and distortions of public health information on subjects ranging from the rate of condom failure, HIV transmission, gender roles and human biology.

Recently revealed information points to an accelerating problem. In July, a second congressional report conducted by medical professionals found that a government-run sex-ed website contained numerous erroneous statements and carried dangerously incomplete information.

This month, the American Journal of Health Behavior published a study showing that middle-school students participating in one such Ohio program were no less likely to engage in intercourse than their peers, but were less likely to use condoms when doing so.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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