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News Round-Up: Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Washington

Rachel Hart,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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March 12, 2007

Iowa: An editorial in The Tribune calls on schools to “just say no” to The Power Team after a recent assembly at Ames Middle School. The Power Team uses feats of strength to deliver a message of abstinence-only-until-marriage to teens. A local parent complained that the Power Team presentation told girls in the audience not to “dress like objects,” but said nothing to the boys about not treating girls like objects, regardless of what they were wearing.Maine: Last Friday, The Times Record ran an article about the use of an abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum developed by Heritage of Maine in Pownal public schools. Use of the curriculum in Pownal is causing a stir because it was specifically singled out in a memo the Education Commissioner sent to school superintendents in 2005 as not meeting the state’s comprehensive health education requirements. A quote from a member of the Pownal school board makes clear the dilemma that schools face:

The truth is, we have these requirements that need to be met, and Heritage is a free program.

And herein lies the problem: Schools are strapped for cash and the federal government is pouring over a billion dollars into abstinence-only-until-marriage programs while comprehensive sex education receives no federal funding. Is it any surprise why so many school administrators choose abstinence-only-until-marriage programs?Maryland: The Carroll County school board voted against providing eighth-graders with information about contraception despite the urgings of local health teachers. A committee that examined the issue felt that providing this information in ninth grade was too late, and one health teacher had this to say:

If they’re at least given the option of contraceptions and given a basic explanation of them, hopefully that will help them to make healthier choices. Without any knowledge, they can’t make as healthy of a choice.

For now, eighth-graders in Carroll County will continue not to receive the information they need to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and STDs.New York: A contract between the New York City Department of Health and Columbia University to teach teens pregnancy prevention is being criticized by groups that say the program promotes pre-marital sex. Meanwhile, city health officials say the number of teens having sex is on the rise, and that they need information on how to protect themselves.Ohio: In April, Dr. Alvin Jackson will take over the Ohio Department of Health and family planning organizations are hoping he will expand sex education programs in public schools to include information about preventing pregnancy and STDs. The Department of Health does have plans to review the scientific accuracy of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs used in the state after several programs came under fire two years ago. A report released by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 2005 said several programs contained false and misleading information regarding sexual health and wellness.Texas:The Plainview Daily Herald has an article about the abstinence-only-until-marriage program Worth the Wait, currently taught in Coronado, Estacado, and Plainview High Schools. Worth the Wait has been singled out as a particularly harmful abstinence-only-until-marriage program. You can check out a review of the program on SIECUS’s Web site.Washington: Washington state is one step closer to passing a comprehensive sex ed bill. The Senate approved the bill last week and it now needs to pass the House.

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