Thursday, September 22, 2005

ACLU Declares War On Abstinence-Only "Education"

The American Civil Liberties Union announced yesterday that they were going after abstinence-only programs across the country.
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today launched Not In My State, a nationwide action aimed at combating dangerous abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula. In a coordinated effort, ACLU affiliates across the country are sending letters to local officials calling for careful scrutiny of health and life-skills curricula.

"Today's action should be a wake-up call for many states," said Louise Melling, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "State officials need to ensure the health and safety of students by taking responsibility for the curricula taught in their classrooms."

According to a recent report prepared for Representative Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), many abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula used by federally funded programs contain false and misleading information and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Perhaps most alarmingly, these curricula misrepresent the effectiveness of contraceptives by vastly understating the effectiveness of condoms at protecting against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and preventing unintended pregnancy. Such misinformation is particularly alarming given that each year in the United States, nearly 9.1 million 15-24 year olds are infected with an STD and more than 800,000 15-19 year olds become pregnant. ACLU Announces Nationwide Action Aimed at Combating Dangerous Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Curricula in the States

The rightwing buzz against the ACLU is pretty strong and pretty bitter these days. It's a kind of organization, I suppose, that's bound to be unpopular at times. They represent the guy whose rights are being violated, and lots of times that happens when nobody really cares, or even when a lot of people don't believe that someone deserves the rights given to them by the Constitution. Occasionally they end up representing somebody who is truly despicable, and sometimes people may disagree with the ACLU's judgment about whether something is a rights violation or not. In any case, the ACLU performs a thankless function for our society.

The extreme right is trying to spread the idea that the ACLU is "against God," because they do step in and intervene when religious groups try to impose their will on nonmembers. I'm sure this latest move will be portrayed in that light.

This looks like it will turn into a Big Deal.
ACLU affiliates in 18 states called on local officials to keep unsafe abstinence-only-until-marriage programs out of the classroom. The letters encourage officials to select health and life-skills curricula that present medically accurate, age-appropriate, and unbiased information about sex and sexuality.

"For too long the federal government has funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula that are based on ideology and religion rather than science," said Jennifer McAllister-Nevins, State Strategies Attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and Not In My State campaign coordinator. "Studies show that the overwhelming majority of parents want their children to get all the information they need to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and STDs. If the federal government continues to censor life-saving information, then it is up to the states to say enough is enough."

Since 1997, the federal government has poured nearly a billion dollars into abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that deny teenagers critical information they need to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs. In addition, many of these programs promote gender stereotypes, discriminate against gay and lesbian youth and all too often proselytize on the public’s dime.

Those opposing the Montgomery County Public Schools have claimed that they don't want abstinence-only education. They also say they don't want to recall the school board. Tney also said they didn't plan to sue.

Now and then, if you have any sense, you just have to shake your head and wonder how America got into this situation. It's not just a handful of nuts advocating the teaching of ... nothing ... in health classes -- it's actually the federal government that promotes this. How did we get to this point? How do we get back to reason? has a couple of ideas. The ACLU has some ideas. Let's all pull together on this, OK? It's going to be a long, slow haul, pulling our communities back from the edge of the abyss, but we've got to do it, bit by bit.


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