Marc Fisher, the Metro Columnist for The Washington Post, has a great piece in today's paper about the "gum game" controversy in Montgomery, Maryland, that I blogged about yesterday. Fisher notes that all parties seem to be in agreement that the game was ill-conceived, but his column digs deeper to the real problem at hand:
Okay, the game is revolting, and the group is gone -- we got that. But I still have questions: Why, exactly, was teaching about sensitive and difficult issues of sexual activity and sexually transmitted disease outsourced? And why was this job entrusted to the Pregnancy Center, which says its abstinence program is based on the belief that "pregnancy is not the root problem, but a symptom of a lifestyle that is outside of God's will"Those outsiders have a hidden agenda of their own. Tierney [founder and head of the Rockville Pregnancy Center that was contracted by the Montgomery school sytem to teach sex ed to students] assures me there is no religious content to the school lessons. But her abstinence instructor says she makes a point of offering each class free pregnancy tests at the center. There, Tierney shows me how each woman who comes in for a test gets the full-court antiabortion press: a showcase of cute little plastic fetuses, a walk through a treasure chest of baby clothes, a video on the ravages of abortion and a sonogram "so they can hear the beating heart and see that this is a real, live baby," Tierney says.
What Fisher doesn't mention is that outsourcing the teaching of sex ed classes to instructors from crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) is not limited to schools in Montgomery. As part of the current administration's funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, millions of dollars have been funneled to these groups. Last summer, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) issued a report that found the Bush Administration has funded CPCs to the tune of over $30 million dollars and that 87 percent of the CPCs investigated by Waxman provided pregnant women with misleading and inaccurate information about the medical risks of abortion.But it's not just the federal government funding CPCs -- last week the Los Angeles Times ran a story about state funding of these groups.
At least eight states -- including Florida, Missouri and Pennsylvania -- use public funds to subsidize crisis pregnancy centers, Christian homes for unwed mothers and other programs explicitly designed to steer women away from abortion. As a condition of the grants, counselors are often barred from referring women to any clinic that provides abortions; in some cases, they may not discuss contraception either.All told, states will spend at least $13 million this year -- much of it from welfare or family-planning budgets -- to dissuade women from abortion.
Clearly, parents would be wise to find out not only what their students are being taught, but also who is behind these messages.