New York – ACLU Reproductive Freedom today launched take issue take charge, a nationwide action aimed at combating dangerous abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula. In a coordinated effort, ACLU reproductive rights activists across the country are sending letters to local officials calling for careful scrutiny of health and life-skills curricula. “Today’s action should be a wake-up call for many states,” said Louise Melling, Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “State officials need to ensure the health and safety of students by taking responsibility for the curricula taught in their classrooms.” According to a recent report prepared for Representative Henry A.
Waxman (D-CA), many abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula used by federally funded programs contain false and misleading information and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Perhaps most alarmingly, these curricula misrepresent the effectiveness of contraceptives by vastly understating the effectiveness of condoms at protecting against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and preventing unintended pregnancy. Such misinformation is particularly alarming given that each year in the United States, nearly 9.1 million 15-24 year olds are infected with an STD and more than 800,000 15-19 year olds become pregnant.
ACLU affiliates in 18 states called on local officials to keep unsafe abstinence-only-until-marriage programs out of the classroom. The letters encourage officials to select health and life-skills curricula that present medically accurate, age-appropriate, and unbiased information about sex and sexuality.
“For too long the federal government has funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula that are based on ideology and religion rather than science,” said Jennifer McAllister-Nevins, State Strategies Attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and Not In My State campaign coordinator. “Studies show that the overwhelming majority of parents want their children to get all the information they need to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and STDs. If the federal government continues to censor life-saving information, then it is up to the states to say enough is enough.”
Since 1997, the federal government has poured nearly a billion dollars into abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that deny teenagers critical information they need to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs. In addition, many of these programs promote gender stereotypes, discriminate against gay and lesbian youth and all too often proselytize on the public’s dime.
Recent studies show that most abstinence-only programs do not prevent teens from having sex before marriage and that many actually deter teens who become sexually active from using condoms and getting tested and treated for STDs when they start having sex.
On the other hand, evidence shows that teaching teens the importance of abstinence as well as the importance of effective contraceptive use helps teens delay sex and increases condom use among sexually active teens. Currently, no federal program is dedicated to supporting this commonsense approach to sexuality education, the ACLU noted.
The ACLU affiliates participating in today’s action include: Alaska CLU, ACLU of Arkansas, ACLU of North California, ACLU of South California, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, ACLU of Connecticut, ACLU of Delaware, ACLU of Georgia, ACLU of Illinois, ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, ACLU of Massachusetts, ACLU of Michigan, ACLU of Minnesota, ACLU of Eastern Missouri, ACLU of Nebraska, New York CLU, ACLU of Pennsylvania, ACLU of Rhode Island, ACLU of Tennessee, and ACLU of Wyoming.
Not In My State is part of the ACLU’s Take Issue, Take Charge campaign. Take Issue, Take Charge is a nationwide campaign to protect reproductive freedom coordinated by the national ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project in conjunction with ACLU affiliates throughout the country.