Survey results released last week by conservative Christian groups reported that parents approve of their children being taught about using condoms and contraceptives to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but that most parents disapproved of the more explicit material used in some sex education classes, the New York Times reports. “Even a coalition of anti-choice, abstinence-only proponents could not hide the truth: the majority of parents support age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education,” said Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), in a news release. Many advocates of sex-education criticized the survey because it quoted guidelines as the actual curriculum. “Obviously they polled for what they thought was most shocking,” Tamara Kreinen, president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US (SIECUS), told the Times.
The survey was released on the same day that the House passed a bill to use $50 million to fund abstinence-only sex education programs. Such programs prohibit the discussion of contraceptives except in terms of failure rates. Supporters of comprehensive sex education caution that programs that do not encompass both abstinence and birth control have not been found to be effective at delaying sexual activity, reducing the number of sexual partners, or reducing the rate of unintended pregnancy.
Every prominent medical and health organization in the US, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Medicine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, the American Nurses Association, the Institute of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, agrees that educating adolescents about proper condom use is imperative to reducing the risk of infection by HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. “The U.S. government should stop wasting more than $100 million every year on unproven, unsafe and ineffective abstinence-only sex education programs,” said Feldt in the PPFA release. The bill on abstinence-only program funding will now be sent to the Senate for debate.
Media Resources: Kaisernetwork.org 2/14/03; New York Times 2/13/03; PPFA press release 2/13/03; Feminist Daily News 10/9/02