ACLU Calls On Lawmakers to Stop Spending Taxpayer Dollars on Dangerous Abstinence-Only Sex Education

December 1, 2004 12:00 am

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New Report Shows Majority of Federally Funded Programs Contain False and Misleading Information and Often Blur the Line Between Religion and Science

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today hailed the release of a comprehensive review of curriculums used in federally funded abstinence-only sex education programs, saying that it shows the government should not spend taxpayer dollars on programs that withhold vital life-saving information and mislead teenagers.

“Today’s report offers concrete evidence that abstinence-only sex education curriculums are all too often based on ideology and religion rather than science,” said Louise Melling, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Studies show that the overwhelming majority of parents want their children to get all the information they need to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including information about contraception, how to use condoms properly, and about abortion. The government needs to stop censoring life-saving information.”

Today’s report, The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs, was prepared for Representative Henry A. Waxman by the Special Investigation Division of the House Committee on Government Reform. It reviews the most popular curriculums funded by the largest federal abstinence-only program, known as SPRANS. The recently passed federal budget for 2005 earmarks $105 million for SPRANS and a total of more than $165 million dollars for abstinence-only education.

The ACLU has long opposed the use of federal and state dollars on abstinence-only education. In 1983, we filed the first lawsuit, Bowen v. Kendrick, against a federal abstinence-only program. The decision in that case clarified that public money cannot be used to fund religious activities in government-funded sexuality education. And in 2002, in ACLU of Louisiana v. Foster, the ACLU prevailed in the first legal challenge to the misuse of taxpayer dollars to preach religion in programs funded under the federal abstinence money made available in the 1996 federal welfare reform legislation.

According to the report, over two-thirds of the programs reviewed use curriculums that distort information about contraceptives, misrepresent the risks of abortion, blur religion and science, promote gender stereotypes, and contain basic scientific errors.

“For years, lawmakers have increased spending on abstinence-only programs without clear evidence that they are effective at preventing unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections, including HIV,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Representative Waxman’s report demonstrates that public money is being misspent at the expense of our children’s health. It should serve as a serious wake-up call to lawmakers.”

For more information on the ACLU of Louisiana v. Foster go to: /node/9723

For more information about the violation of civil liberties in abstinence-only sex education go to: /node/

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