Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Bush White House: Lies, Lies and More D*mn Lies

Forget Iraq. Forget WMD. Forget Kerik. The latest Bush administration lie is not only monstrous, it is tearing down the wall between church and state and endangering our children to boot. {With thanks to The St. Petersburg Times for the following facts}.

A new congressional report has found that the government's abstinence-only sex education programs are rife with inaccurate and resultingly dangerous information. The government will spend $170 million next year to support abstinence-only education. Many of the recipients of that money will be faith-based organizations. The congressional study, conducted by the Special Investigations Division of the Committee on Government Reform at the behest of Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., found "false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health" in more than 80 percent of the most popular abstinence-only curricula.

Much like his Kerik background check and his WMD justification for invading Iraq, the President has once again demonstrated a lazy intellect when it comes to accountability on issues with which he agrees. None of the abstinence-only programs are vetted for accuracy, if you can believe it. House Republicans even voted down a Democratic attempt to require medical accuracy as a prerequisite for receiving the funding.

As a result, young men and women are being told the following monstrous lies under the guise of sex education:

--5 to 10 percent of women who have abortions will become sterile (when there's no correlation between elective abortions and sterility)

--condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission 31 percent of the time (when a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that consistent condom use resulted in a zero transmission rate)

The result is not that young people are scared off sex until marriage. (Even most of those who take virginity pledges engage in premarital sex.) It's that they don't bother taking precautions against sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy. They are led to believe that condoms are ineffective.

"We hear from kids all the time about the myths they've been fed," said Marilyn Anderson, director of education at Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. "The whole idea is to scare kids and make them think they'll get HIV by having sex. But what's walking into our clinic says that kids are having sex, just without condoms."

Although the federal government has determinedly refused to study whether any correlation exists between teaching abstinence and actual abstinence, the social science that does exist demonstrates very little positive impact. The handful of states that have studied it found no long-term success in delaying sexual initiation. Instead, some state program evaluators said the programs' lack of information on pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases was leading to dangerous attitudes and behaviors.

Bush's push for abstinence-only education is a way to pander to his base. According to Adrienne Verrilli, director of communications at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, the purveyors of these programs are often connected to the antiabortion movement.

It's no surprise, then, that the curricula have also been found to mix religion and science in ways to promote an antiabortion agenda. One course described a blastocyst as a "tiny baby" that "snuggles" into the uterus. Another called a 43-day-old fetus a "thinking person."

In Louisiana, a state-sponsored Web site tells young people that withholding sex until marriage makes one "really, truly, "cool' in God's eyes." And in Florida, the Pinellas Pregnancy Center received more than $300,000 in 2003 and about $200,000 in 2004 in taxpayer money to spread an abstinence-only message in public school health classrooms. They reach between 5,000 and 6,000 students a year this way, according to program coordinator Linda Daniels. The center describes itself as "a faith-based organization that offers a Christian response to the issue of abortion."

Clearly, this administration considers HIV and unplanned pregnancies in today's teens as collateral damage in their larger war on a woman's right to choose. More importantly, as my mom always said, "if you have to lie to get me to side with you, your side must not be very good."

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