(CNSNews.com) - More than 200 liberal organizations launched a nationwide campaign Tuesday in an effort to halt federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
However, conservatives responded that lawmakers should instead "stay the course" on abstinence education and reject the "old snake oil" of comprehensive sex education.
"Since 2001, when federal spending in these programs began to ramp up, a significant body of evidence has accumulated showing that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are ineffective and potentially harmful," the No More Money campaign stated in a press release.
"The medical community has never supported these programs, and polling consistently shows that the American people reject them as well," the statement added.
"Now that it is clear there is no sound research supporting these programs, no support in the public health community and no support by the American people, we are asking Congress to stop funding these harmful programs," said William Smith, vice president for public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.
One goal of the new effort is to provide organizations at the local, state and federal levels with information to educate and mobilize members and other constituents. In addition, No More Money intends to create easy and accessible tools for people to make lawmakers aware of their opposition to abstinence programs.
The campaign is supported by groups ranging from the Abortion Access Project to YWCA USA, as well as AIDS and homosexual advocacy groups and chapters of NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
"As organizations committed to sound science and the health and welfare of our nation's youth, we look forward to the No More Money campaign empowering people to take action and help turn the tide away from abstinence-only-until-marriage programs," Smith added.
Smith pointed to a 2003 Columbia University study which showed that 88 percent of youths pledging to maintain their virginity had intercourse before marriage, but young people who took virginity pledges were 30 percent less likely to use contraception when they became sexually active than peers who had not pledged.
In addition, a 2004 congressional review of the 13 curricula in federally funded abstinence programs found that "the vast majority contain egregious medical inaccuracies, unsettling gender stereotypes, and anti-abortion and anti-gay messages."
"For far too long, these harmful programs have gone unchecked, allowing ideologically driven lawmakers to pour millions of taxpayer dollars into these programs," Smith added. "We intend for the No More Money campaign to lead the charge to change all that."
Since 1998, nearly $1 billion in federal taxes has been spent on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, almost $800 million of which has been spent since 2001. In addition, the president has proposed another $204 million for Fiscal Year 2007.
However, as Cybercast News Service previously reported, funding for "comprehensive sex education" supported by liberals still outpaces "abstinence education" backed by conservatives by a margin of 12 to 1.
That fact was not lost on Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute at Concerned Women for America, who called the disparity "a matter of greed."
Knight told Cybercast News Service that those involved in "the old, failed Planned Parenthood-type programs" aren't satisfied with "what they still get annually from the federal taxpayer."
"They want it all," Knight said.
Leslee Unruh, president of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse, saw another financial motive for the organizations supporting the No More Money campaign.
"These groups are coming out against abstinence programs because many of them -- abortion clinics and abortion providers -- make money when there are unplanned pregnancies," Unruh told Cybercast News Service.
Linda Klepacki, sexual health analyst for the conservative group Focus on the Family, said the conflict over sex education boils down to a fundamental difference in world views.
"Abstinence educators believe that children are healthier emotionally, psychologically, physically and spiritually if they don't have sex until marriage," Klepacki told Cybercast News Service.
On the other hand, "the comprehensive sex education professionals believe that all children should be allowed to be sexually active at any time without any permission for contraceptives, any permission for abortion, any permission for services for their children regardless of age," she said.
"They believe in risk reduction; we believe in risk elimination," Klepacki noted.
"You have to understand the motive" of these liberal organizations, Knight added. "They've been pushing a distorted view of human sexuality for 50 years now.
"It's no wonder they attack the good, wholesome, logical alternative that abstinence education represents," Knight said. "They're desperate to discredit abstinence programs because they know parents want these instead of the old snake oil that these groups have been selling for years."
Knight also accused the liberal organizations behind No More Money of "pushing junk science for years to justify everything from child sexuality to homosexuality, so I'm not surprised they're misportraying the evidence when it comes to abstinence education."
"There is a wealth of evidence that abstinence programs are making a difference, and these groups want to sweep those under the carpet and pretend that kids who are urged to engage in every form of sex short of intercourse are more likely to avoid sex than the kids who are keeping their clothes on," Knight said.
While agreeing that "we have had decades of studies showing the negative psychological, physical and emotional effects of sex outside of marriage," Klepacki also noted that "when we talk about what is working, let's really look at the history."
"From when we started comprehensive sex education in the 1960s to the present, we went from two sexually transmitted diseases to more than 25," she said. "There has also been a continual increase in adolescent and unwed pregnancy and a continual increase in the emergence and occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases."
As a result, Unruh had different advice for legislators regarding the funding of abstinence programs: "Stay the course" because "abstinence works."
See Earlier Stories:
Women's Groups Complain About Less $$ for Contraceptives (June 2, 2006)
'Comprehensive' Sex Ed Still Gets More Tax Dollars Than Abstinence Ed (Oct. 14, 2005)
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