Conservatives Hit Waxman for Report Blasting Abstinence-Only Sex Ed

By Erin Brezsnyak | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - California Congressman Henry Waxman's scathing report about abstinence-based sex education programs represents "his latest attempt to discredit the important work being done in our nation's schools," according to the spokeswoman for a cultural conservative group.

Waxman, one of the most liberal Democrats in the U.S. House, opposes the abstinence education programs that are receiving $170 million in federal funding this year and are now in use in 25 states. Waxman's report, issued Wednesday, alleges that most of the programs give teenagers false or misleading information about abortion, sexually transmitted diseases and the effectiveness of contraceptives.

"It is absolutely vital that the health education provided to America's youth be scientifically and medically accurate," Waxman said. "The abstinence-only programs reviewed in this report fail to meet this standard."

But Thursday, Linda Klepacki, a sexual health analyst for the conservative Focus on the Family, said Waxman's report should be viewed with skepticism because he "is a vocal proponent of more federal dollars being spent on condom-distribution programs."

In her press release, Klepacki asserted that "Representative Waxman's agenda comes through loud and clear on every page of his latest attempt to discredit the important work being done in our nation's schools to protect teens from the physical and emotional consequences of sex outside of marriage."

Leslee Unruth, founder and president of Abstinence Clearing House, also turned the criticism back on Waxman, telling that the congressman's report reveals his long held views. "This is the same individual that has been defending the federal funding of flirting classes," she added.

"It is clear that Rep. Waxman and his staff have a very distorted view of abstinence education and health sexuality," Unruth stated in a press release.

Abortion rights groups Thursday praised Waxman's report, which was compiled by the minority staff of the House Committee on Government Reform and concluded that 11 of the 13 abstinence-only curricula studied contain "false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health."

"Rep. Waxman's study proves what other research has already revealed -- that abstinence-only programs are irresponsible, ineffective and harmful to young people," Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Gloria Feldt stated in a press release.

Abstinence-only education must follow specific guidelines, including limiting discussion about contraception to the failure rates of such methods. This is exactly what is wrong with abstinence-only education, according to Debra Hauer, vice president of Advocates for Youth.

"There's been absolutely no evaluation that shows that an abstinence-only program has reduced sexual activity or delayed the age of sexual initiation. Many of the programs provide misinformation and wrong information, leaving young people incredibly vulnerable to unwanted pregnancy, HIV and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)," Hauer told .

"If the goal is to help young people delay the age at which they begin to have sex, to try to push back on ... early sexual activity, we have 30 years of public health history about what works to do that. And they're not abstinence-only programs," Hauer added.

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