Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The Religious Reich Is Endangering the Lives of Our Children

I came across this notice of a grant opportunity today:

Program Title: Community-Based Abstinence Education Project Grants

Agency: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Sub-Agency: Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

Program URL: http://www.tgci.com/fedrgtxt/03-30597.txt

Summary: The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announces that approximately $33 million in fiscal year (FY) 2004 funds will be available for making competitive grants to provide abstinence education to adolescents, subject to the availability of appropriations. There are no cost sharing, matching or cost participation requirements of the program. Eligibility is open to public and private entities, including faith-based and community organizations, which develop and/or provide an abstinence program consistent with the definition of “abstinence education” in section 510 of the Social Security Act. In addition, the entity must agree not to provide a participating adolescent any other education regarding sexual conduct in the same setting.

I forwarded it to a friend who is a volunteer for Planned Parenthood. Here is their reply, edited to preserve privacy:

We’re very aware of this well-funded boondoggle. I think there’s over $100,000 available in [my county] alone for teachers to use the teaching materials and pay that portion of their salaries to push this off on, would you believe, teenagers. Our education person has asked to sit in on some of these sessions. Surprisingly, occasionally a highschooler will ask some well-informed questions about AIDS and condoms. The party line is that condoms don’t work – that the viruses are tiny enough to penetrate the rubber. [The educator] listens politely. But I must tell you that to go into our clinic on a Thursday afternoon is to see how needed real information on sexuality is, as well as a source for getting either the pill or condoms (we give the latter out for free). That’s the day for our Teen Clinic and the waiting room is standing room only with little room to move. Regarding ignorance: I listened in to our end of the phone conversations held by our receptionists who field questions and make appointments. “Can you get pregnant if he goes in through your butt?” “Can you get pregnant from a banana?” Fortunately we have an automated hotline that offers the basics so the phone lines aren’t tied up with this. And additionally, while the school systems don’t offer the information needed, except the abstinence-only crap, the individual teachers can request a session that [our educator] gives to her junior high and upper grades. The age that should be getting it is, of course, fifth grade or sixth at the latest. But that’s pushing it.

This is what our government, at the behest of the Religious Reich, is doing to “protect” the morals of our teenaged children: teaching ignorance and preaching abstinence. The teachers can’t even talk about anything else, and meanwhile the HIV / STD infection rate is on the rise again, after a decline during the 1990’s…when the Democrats were in charge.

Condoms have a failure rate of less than one percent. The failure rate of abstinence is a lot higher.