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Why Does Federal Money Flow to Conservative Groups That Terrify Kids About Sexuality?

Federally funded crisis pregnancy centers bring mazes, game shows, and questionable health information to teens.

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Full Circle, founded in 1998, has been offering privately financed abstinence-education services to mostly elementary and middle schools in McMinn County for a few years now. In its grant proposal, the center explained that the extra cash would be used to hire more educators. Currently, the center’s program, called On TRAC (Teaching Teens Responsibility and Consequences), relies on abstinence curriculum called “ Think on Point” and “ Life on Point,” created by  On Point, a youth-development group in Chattanooga, Tenn. 

“Think on Point” is a five-day program offered once a year to sixth- through ninth-graders during physical education class. According to the program description:

“[t]he curriculum includes homework assignments, in-class handouts, role-playing activities, and focused small-group discussion. … Lessons at every grade level discuss the topics of abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases, media influence, and standards and boundaries; other more specific themes include pregnancy, pornography, abuse, value and self-worth, and the essence of real love.”

“Life on Point” is designed to dig deeper into risky activities. The center also proposed bringing five-day abstinence instruction to older teens in high school life skills and health classes.

All of the abstinence-only programs funded under Tennessee’s Affordable Care Act grant had to submit short- and long-term program objectives. Full Circle Women’s long-term goals include curbing rates of teen pregnancy, school dropouts, and STDs in McMinn and Meigs counties, and also a “decrease in percentage of children being raised by single mothers below the poverty line.” Short-term goals include “increased knowledge of STDS and pregnancy risks” and “understanding the lack of effectiveness of condoms/birth control in STD protection and pregnancy.”

To make the case for giving Full Circle money to target 10-to-17-year-olds in McMinn, Meigs, and Polk counties (in southeastern part of the state), Full Circle’s grant application cited statistics showing STD rates among teens are high in the area, including “Tennessee Department of Health reports that the number of reported cases of Chlamydia in McMinn County has increased a staggering 1200% from 1994-2007.”

Full Circle Women’s Services Executive Director Anne Montgomery turned down TAI’s request for an interview.

In line with the  eight-point federal guidelines of abstinence education, the other two CPCs receiving Affordable Care Act funding similarly offer plans to educate teens about the repercussions of sexual activity and advocate abstinence as the only means to avoid those repercussions. 

Here is part of how the Women’s Care Center promotes its abstinence program, called  The Edge:

While “until marriage” may sound like practically forever, let’s get a little perspective on this. The average age of initial marriage in the United States is 26 years old. That gets even lower in more rural areas. And the payoff of sexual abstinence is that you have the rest of your married life to enjoy your sexuality without having to suffer the consequences of emotional baggage, crotch-crippling STDs, or teen pregnancy. That sounds to me like a pretty good deal.

Among the desired outcomes of Life Choices Pregnancy Resource Center’s abstinence-until-marriage program,  Right Choices of West Tennessee, are “increased knowledge regarding the effects of teen sexual behavior and sexually-transmitted diseases” and “increased commitment to abstinence until marriage.”

The directors of Life Choices Pregnancy Support Center and the Women’s Care Center did not return requests for interviews.

Earlier this month, the  CDC released new data showing that America’s teen birthrate is the lowest it has been since 1946. The Guttmacher Institute, a proponent of comprehensive sex education, credited that drop, in part, with  improvements in contraceptive use.

But Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, said high rates of STDs among teens means the abstinence-only message is still necessary.

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