A Waste of Money and Information

By Christine Cupaiuolo |

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, hell-bent on pushing abstinence education, has launched a new campaign to encourage parents to talk to their kids about waiting until marriage to have sex. The campaign will receive $8.5 million per year for television, radio and print public service announcements.

HHS has also unveiled a “revised” www.4parents.gov website to provide parents with talking points and resources. Less than two years ago, the website was ridiculed for providing inaccurate or misleading information.

HHS paid National Physicians Center for Family Resources $46,000 to develop the original site. To give you a sense of the organization’s perspective, the National Physicians Center was praised by this faulty organization for recognizing the link between abortion and breast cancer, a link that does not exist.

“A federally-funded website should present the facts as they are, not as you might wish them to be,” Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) wrote to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt in 2005. “It is wrong — and ultimately self-defeating — to sacrifice scientific accuracy in an effort to frighten teens and their parents.”

So what’s changed since 2005? I’m not sure. The site still makes sex seem downright scary — and yet it’s the lack of comprehensive, thoughtful and detailed information about teenage sexuality and behavior that’s really frightening. (It’s also just wrong to promote something so poorly written that completely misses the opportunity to engage its audience, but we’ll save that critique for another day.)

The site still does a weak job of promoting safer sex, though I think it may have softened its stance about single-parent households and pulled back from some of the read blatant ideological language. Still, it can’t resist getting digs in whenever possible. To wit, here’s the abortion write-up, filed under teen pregnancy:

Some teen pregnancies end in abortion. Abortions can have complications. There may be emotional consequences, as well: some women say that they feel sad and some use read alcohol or drugs than before. Some states require teens to have their parent’s permission to get an abortion. To understand the scope of this situation, consider these numbers: In 2002, there were over 750,000 teen pregnancies in the United States, including over 215,000 teen abortions.

Unfortunately this administration has yet to realize that scare tactics and moral posturing does not a public policy make. Despite widespread acceptance that abstinence-only programs are ineffective at best, the Bush administration continues to waste taxpayer funds, while putting teenagers at greater risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

One final note: The HHS press release announcing this campaign is not listed among the official releases on the HHS website. Maybe we’re not the only ones who don’t believe this is real.

Plus: The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) has released the fourth edition of SIECUS State Profiles: A Portrait of Sexuality Education and Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in the States.

The annual publication covers state laws, recently proposed legislation and noteworthy events related to sexuality education and details the amount of money states receive for abstinence-only programs.

For the record, Congress handed out $176 million to states in fiscal year 2006. Now imagine if a good portion of that money went to city condom campaigns.

3 Comments

  1. Maggie says:

    I love the vague use of the word “some” to falsely imply that abortion causes drug/alcohol abuse and depression. Also that “some” states require parental consent. Let’s be careful not to provide any real information, shall we?

  2. Rachel says:

    The press release is available on the Office of Population Affairs website (a division of HHS) – http://opa.osophs.dhhs.gov/index.html

    It’s a PDF, so click on the “here” in the “HHS unveils ‘Parents Speak Up’
    National Campaign” piece that is currently on the front page.

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