Just Say No to Abstinence Funding

by Caleb Reading


Via the NY Times:

New York is rejecting millions of dollars in federal grants for abstinence-only sex education, the state health commissioner, Dr. Richard F. Daines, announced yesterday. The decision puts New York in line with at least 10 other states that have decided to forgo the federal money in recent years.

New York has received roughly $3.5 million a year from the federal government for abstinence-only education since 1998. The abstinence program was approved as part of welfare overhauls under the Clinton administration and was expanded and restructured under President Bush.

Well, that’s one way to make sure you have plenty of people using the welfare system.

In a statement posted on the Health Department’s Web site, Dr. Daines said […] the policy was “based on ideology rather than on sound scientific-based evidence that must be the cornerstone of good public healthcare policy.”
Both Dr. Daines and Ms. Sherwin cited recent studies, including one by the federal Government Accountability Office, which concluded that abstinence programs have not proven to be effective and have sometimes taught teens inaccurate medical information about sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

I spent my Junior and Senior year of high school at a private evangelical school. Our high school “sex education” consisted of this:

We had a bible class during the first hour of every day. Every student from all four grades attended this same class, which was taught by the principal.

We had guest speakers sometimes. One day we welcomed a 30-something, evangelical, hair-teased-to-the-rafters (bigger hair = closer to God), female volunteer from one of those “Choose Life” agencies you see billboards for. One day. As in one hour. Once every four years.

Our one hour, one time sex education included the reading of a bunch of Old Testiment bible passages about adultery and homosexuals going to hell, etc.

45 minutes of that.

15 minutes of “scientific” education that went like this (I’ll paraphrase what I remember):

“Everybody stand up on this side of the room. I’ll count off by 5, and every 5th person walk to the other side.”

After counting off, she pointed to the side of the room with 4 out of 5 kids in it and said, and I quote:

“4 out of 5 teenagers who engage in premarital sex have an STD right now!”

Which is bull. I was working as a pharmacy clerk at the time, reading medical textbooks in my spare time and thinking about going to Johns Hopkins for college, so I said, “Where did you get that statistic?”

You’d think I had just shot her dog, the way everyone looked at me. How dare I ask where a statistic comes from?

She couldn’t answer me. So then I asked if she was a nurse. No. Was she trained by nurses? No. Did her organization consult with the AMA? “The what?”

She said, “The what?”

About the AMA.

“The American Medical Association,” I said. “Who do you get your statistics from?”

She said they used many sources, and I asked, “Are they are political action committees?”

Well right then and there the principal put her foot down and said I was taking up too much class time; this lady was only going to have five minutes left to finish her speech.

So volunteer disinformationist started again:

“Did you students know that the virus HIV can pass through condoms?”

And I immediately laughed and said, “NO IT CAN’T!”

The principal cleared her throat. I didn’t stop laughing.

“Yes, it can. It can pass through condoms. It’s small enough.”

And I said, “That’s HPV, not HIV. You know, Human Papillomavirus? Not HIV.”

She accused me of making up HPV to confuse my classmates. I’ll repeat that, our only source for sex ed at school accused me of making up human papillomavirus. Then the principal said we were out of time, and shot me a dirty look. Normally she was a very nice woman, but not when you contradicted anything a guest speaker said. She thought it made the school look bad, kids actually asking questions that weren’t pre-screened.

On the upside, a couple classmates asked me later what HPV was.

I wish this was a comedy routine on TV, and not something that actually happened to me in the mid 1990s.