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Former Surgeon General Silenced on Abstinence-Only

Rachel Hart,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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July 12, 2007

On Tuesday, former Surgeon General Richard Carmona testified at a Congressional hearing that the Bush Administration repeatedly silenced his views on a host of issues including abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Both the Associated Pressand Washington Post reported on the story.

Carmona said he believed the surgeon general should show leadership on health issues. But his speeches were edited by political appointees, and he was told not to talk about certain issues. For example, he supported comprehensive sex education that would include abstinence in the curriculum, rather than focusing solely on abstinence.“Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized or simply buried,” {Carmona] said. “The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds.”Carmona said that when the administration touted funding for abstinence-only education, he was prevented from discussing research on the effectiveness of teaching about condoms as well as abstinence. “There was already a policy in place that did not want to hear the science but wanted to just preach abstinence, which I felt was scientifically incorrect,” Carmona said.

Carmona’s allegations come on the heels of reports that even the President’s own family doesn’t support his abstinence-only-until-marriage policy. Ms. magazine reported last week that in an interview with CNN, the First Lady called condoms “absolutely necessary” and said that she had no objections to recent legislation that would remove the abstinence-only-until-marriage provisions from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. And a new book by Jenna Bush (still in the editing stages) apparently supports a comprehensive approach to sex education. Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope is based the First Daughter’s experience as a UNICEF volunteer in Latin America.

The book ends with a lengthy appendix that includes several tips on how teens can protect themselves against AIDS and other STDs, and it includes sentences like this one: “Whether or not you choose to wait until your [sic] married or older to become sexually active, give yourself as much time as you need to make a well-thought-out and mature decision.”

In other news, the State Board of Education in Maryland has approved the much ballyhooed Montgomery sex ed curriculum. If you remember, the Montgomery curriculum, which demonstrates how to correctly use a condom and addresses sexual orientation in a non-judgmental way, has been in and out of the courts since 2005. And administrators in Brevard County, Florida, are divided over what students should learn about contraceptives. The school district requires that contraceptives can only be discussed in a terms of their failure rates.

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