He-Men and Virginity Pledges? Obama Administration Quietly Endorses Absurd Anti-Sex Curriculum
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Mathematica’s final report concluded:
Findings indicate that the [Heritage Keepers Abstinence Program’s] Life Skills Education Component had little or no impact on sexual abstinence or activity.
But, we are expected to believe that the third time must be a charm? This winter, Mathematica was contracted by HHS to review evaluations for their rigor, and this time they recommended Heritage Keepers for inclusion on the list of HHS-approved programs. To date, there is still no published peer-reviewed manuscript to help assess what, if anything, changed for the program to make the list. Was a new study conducted? Did the authors submit new data or simply rework the old?
A Call for Evidence and Rights
Whether the data exists to support the program’s effectiveness is still in question, but the egregious content of the program is crystal clear. The Administration’s hypocrisy must end. It is time to embrace both an evidence- and a rights-based approach to youth sexual health promotion. Evidence of effectiveness is important, but it should not be sufficient. It is not enough to help some students delay sexual initiation while leaving others ill-equipped to protect themselves when they do have sex. It is unacceptable to promote teen pregnancy prevention at the cost of ostracizing LGBT youth, survivors of sexual assault, or youth who are sexually active. Thirty years of public health science clearly demonstrates that providing young people with information about the health benefits of both abstinence and contraception and condoms, does not cause young people to initiate sex earlier or have sex more often. Abstinence-only-until marriage programs leave young people unprepared. They are unethical.
Young people have the right to honest, age-appropriate, comprehensive sexual health information to help them protect their health and lives. The Administration should immediately remove Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education from the HHS-endorsed list of evidence-based programs currently posted on the Office of Adolescent Health’s (OAH) website. America’s youth deserve better.
Debra Hauser has been with Advocates for Youth for almost 20 years, first as Director of the Support Center for School-based Health Care, then as Executive Vice President.
Monica Rodriguez is the president and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).
Elizabeth Schroeder is the executive director of Answer. A national spokesperson on sexuality education issues, she has trained thousands of youth-serving professionals, adolescents, and parents in the United States and overseas.
Danene Sorace, MPP, is a prominent sexuality education consultant and former director of Answer, Rutgers University and served as founder and consultant to the Future of Sex Education project.