Abstinence Education Misleads Students, Report Finds

A congressional report says the federal government’s abstinence-only programs include bogus health information.

The report, issued by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), concludes that abstinence-only programs contain “false, misleading or distorted information” about contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases, The New York Times reported in early December. For example, part of the curricula included claims that H.I.V. can be contracted via sweat and tears and that pregnancy may result by merely touching another person’s genitals. Waxman’s study concluded that 11 of the 13 most frequently used programs contain misinformation.

The Times reported that the federal government will spend $170 million on abstinence-only programs next year, double the amount spent in 2001.

Religious Right groups, the leading proponents of abstinence-only education, sprang to the defense of the programs and attacked Waxman as an out-of-touch liberal.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell sent a Dec. 3 e-mail to his supporters deriding Waxman as one the House of Representative’s “most liberal members” and including information from Focus on the Family’s “Sexual Health Analyst.”

The Lynchburg, Va.-based televangelist also praised the Bush administration’s support of abstinence-only programs.

“I thank God that we have a president in the Oval Office who understands that school-based abstinence programs that teach personal responsibility and morality can provide a positive alternative to the media’s barrage of sexual images and messages,” Falwell’s e-mail stated.