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No More Ab-only Funding

Rachel Hart,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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November 29, 2007

RH Reality Check's blog posted a letter yesterday that 10 prominent researchers in the field of adolescent sexual and reproductive health sent to Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid expressing concern over the recent increase in funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. I've posted some excerpts below:

By design, abstinence programs restrict information about condoms and contraception - information that may be critical to protecting the health of young people and to preventing unplanned pregnancy, HIV infection, and infection with other sexually transmitted organisms. They ignore the health needs of sexually active youth and youth who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning for counseling, health care services, and risk reduction education. Withholding lifesaving information from young people is contrary to the standards of medical ethics and to many international human rights conventions.

Abstinence until marriage is another stated goal of the federal program; however, evidence from the past several decades indicates that establishing abstinence until marriage as normative behavior would be a highly challenging policy goal.

Importantly, the emphasis on abstinence-only programs and policies appears to be undermining critical public health programs in the U.S. and abroad, including comprehensive sexuality education and HIV prevention programs. During the period of increased state and federal emphasis on abstinence, declines have occurred in the percentage of teachers in U.S. public schools who teach about birth control and the number of students who report receiving such education.

The recent Congressional testimony of former Surgeon General Richard Carmona underscores these critiques from mainstream health organizations. Dr. Carmona's testimony confirms the political motivations behind abstinence funding and the failure to address issues of efficacy and scientific accuracy. He suggested that ideology and theology have taken priority over women's health in the current administration. Dr. Carmona reported that the Bush administration "did not want to hear the science but wanted to, if you will, ‘preach abstinence,' which I felt was scientifically incorrect."

You can read the full text of the letter here.

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