Renegade Evolution encourages us to spend some time today blogging for sex education (she has a great feminist blog by the way).
I thought to further this aim I’d talk about this recent Nation article about the scam that is the abstinence education industry. Basically, it’s just pork for the already-wealthy right-wing friends of the administration who use their money to attack abortion and fund denialist groups like the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America.
Following the money swirling around Ruddy offers an eye-opening glimpse into the squalor at the heart of the abstinence-only project. One top Bush adviser left to take a job at Ruddy’s charity, Gerard Health Foundation, and a senior officer at Ruddy’s for-profit company, Maximus, left to take a top-level position at the Department of Health and Human Services. Leaders of Christian-right organizations that are Gerard grantees have gained advisory HHS positions–and their organizations have in turn received AIDS and abstinence grants to the tune of at least $25 million. Maximus itself has raked in more than $100 million in federal contracts during the Bush era.
As for Ruddy’s abstinence-only policy, recent reports, including one contracted by Bush’s HHS, show that after more than $1 billion has been poured into the enterprise, it simply doesn’t work. Already nine states have opted out from federal funds for this faith-based boondoggle in favor of more comprehensive and effective programs of sex education for their youth.
“I can’t think of another federal program where so much money was spent without any oversight and to such little effect,” said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a national organization that promotes comprehensive sexual health policies. “It wasn’t that policy-makers didn’t know that abstinence-only didn’t work. In 2000 the Institute of Medicine issued a scathing report on these programs. But they went full steam ahead despite the warning. It’s beyond naÃ¯ve. It’s immoral.”
In addition to lavishly funding an army of antiabortion and abstinence-only groups nationwide, Gerard also pumps hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Federalist Society, Americans for Tax Reform, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council and other conservative causes. Through Gerard, Ruddy contracted Chuck Donovan, vice president of FRC, to write an “investigative” attack on Planned Parenthood, published in Crisis magazine. Gerard also underwrote a propaganda video touting Uganda’s discredited abstinence-only HIV prevention program.
The most thorough study to date has shown no effect on risky sexual behavior in teens from abstinence education, and there is simply no significant evidence abstinence education works – and plenty that suggests it increases risky behavior and unsafe sexual practices. While its advocates may suggest that the lowering teen pregnancy rates are due to abstinence education, research from the Alan Guttmacher institute convincingly show that the lower rates we see to today are from more contraceptive use than abstinence education. I would also recommend reading Calludus’ post showing how abstinence advocates are lying about their “stacks” of peer-reviewed research showing abstinence works.
We must stop focusing our energy on programs of questionable efficacy that censor information about sex, sexuality and contraception rather than programs of proven efficacy that provide teens with science and evidence-based information that will prepare them for adult life. Instead our current system seems to exist only to enrich these crooked purveyors of disinformation about sex, and it’s shameful.
“Nineteen ninety-nine,” recalls longtime Democratic Texas House member Garnet Coleman. “That was the year Maximus started handling enrollment for Medicaid and CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance Program] here. At the same time as Bush was pushing all this corporate privatization, he started his faith-based initiative, moving state money into these churches and evangelical groups to handle drug treatment and children’s homes. It was a disaster.” Even then, Coleman adds, “it was clear to me the goal was–and is–to cut back social services and cut it to their friends to make a shitload of money.”
In many cases this federal money seemed to flow not just to conservative organizations but to line the pockets of social conservatives themselves. Claudia Horn, through her firm Performance Results Inc., collects $1,551 per day for training groups in program and curriculum evaluation. According to its federal filing, PRI’s 2005 sales to state and local governments were $1.1 million, with an additional $250,000 coming from the Feds, including such clients as the Department of Justice, the Office of Personnel Management, and Housing and Urban Development. But Claudia Horn’s indirect public receipts are likely even higher, as her-private sector clients include IYD and the National Fatherhood Initiative (once headed by her husband, Wade), each of which is heavily funded through federal grants.
Anne and Gordon Badgley, who received $9 million in federal grants for their nonprofit, Heritage Community Services, also set up Badgley Enterprises to market and sell their abstinence-only curriculum, Heritage Keepers. While Heritage’s IRS 990s are sketchy and marked by vague expenses, even a student loan repayment, they clearly show that the Badgleys pocketed $174,201 from the taxpayer-funded nonprofit by buying the curriculum from their own private company.
Without oversight and defunding from Congress, the money will continue to flow for the next five years into Raymond Ruddy’s extended family of antiabortion, anti-condom, anti-gay, abstinence-only Protestant evangelicals and Catholics–a radical consortium that threatens the health of millions.
Read the full nation article. I’m sad to say it won’t be anything too new to those who have observed the cronyism and corruption that this administration has pursued using federal funds. I’m sure they think they’re doing god’s work, and that might be the most frightening thing of all.