NEW YORK -- The American Civil Liberties Union today announced a multi-state action calling on the federal government to fix medical inaccuracies in federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula. Eleven ACLU affiliates sent letters to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) alerting the agency to problematic curricula in their states and asking HHS to take steps to remedy the situation.
"It is clear from today's action that federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula across the country contain medically inaccurate information about the importance of condoms in preventing pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted disease," said Julie Sternberg, Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom. "Spreading misinformation about condoms in many abstinence-only-until-marriage programs violates federal law and endangers teens' health."
Today's action comes on the heels of an April letter the ACLU sent to HHS, which said three federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula, Me, My World, My Future; Sexuality, Commitment & Family; and Why kNOw, along with HHS's own 4parents.gov Web site and pamphlet, Parents, Speak Up!, all violate a federal law requiring certain educational materials to contain medically accurate information about condom effectiveness. In that letter, the ACLU called on HHS to immediately remedy the violations or face a legal challenge.
"States all across the country, including Louisiana, are telling the government enough is enough," said Joe Cook, Executive Director, ACLU of Louisiana. "The federal government needs to wake up and start properly monitoring the content of the abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that it funds."
The ACLU affiliates participating in today's action include: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas/Western Missouri, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Texas.
Last week, the ACLU asked HHS and the Oregon Department of Human Services to investigate evidence of misuse of taxpayer dollars to promote one faith over others in an abstinence-only-until-marriage program Stop and Think. The ACLU threatened to pursue legal action if sufficient measures are not taken to correct any problems.
In early April, a federally commissioned study was released showing that, notwithstanding the more than a billion dollars that the federal government has poured into the programs since 1996, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs don't work. The study looked at several federally funded programs and found that teens who participated in them were just as likely to have sex as teens who did not participate. Furthermore, these students had first intercourse at the same age, and the same number of sexual partners, as students who did not participate.
Currently, no federal funds are dedicated to supporting sexuality education programs that both teach abstinence and include complete and medically accurate information about how to use contraceptives effectively, despite evidence that these programs can delay sexual activity and increase contraceptive use among teens.
The letter sent to Secretary Leavitt can be seen at: http://laaclu.org/PDF_documents/LeavittLtr_050907.pdf