Issue 96, Winter 2004/2005

Students enrolled in federally-funded abstinence-only sex education programs are misinformed about science, deprived of vital health information, and exposed to gender stereotypes and religious dogma, according to a Congressional study commissioned by California Representative Henry A. Waxman. Eleven of the thirteen most commonly taught programs are found to be severely flawed, yet the federal government has doubled funding over the past four years. $170 million has been appropriated for fiscal year 2005 to teach that abstinence-until-marriage is the expected standard of behavior and the only way to avoid pregnancy, sexually-transmitted diseases, and mental and psychological harm.

This federal program institutionalizes censorship in the nation’s schools. Information inconsistent with the "abstinence-only" message is excluded. As a result, curricula omit or distort information about contraceptives, same sex relationships and abortion, and condoms are mentioned only to say they fail. According to the report, the most popular programs expose millions of young people to misinformation, such as:

  • A pregnancy occurs one of every seven times that couples use condoms;

  • In heterosexual sex, condoms fail to prevent HIV approximately 31% of the time;

  • Touching another person’s genitals can result in pregnancy;

  • Exposure to sweat and tears are risk factors for HIV transmission;

  • 5% to 10% of women who have legal abortions will become sterile;

  • Premature birth, a major cause of mental retardation, is increased following the abortion of a first pregnancy;

  • Tubal and cervical pregnancies are increased following abortions;

  • While a man needs little or no preparation for sex, a woman often needs hours of emotional and mental preparation.

One thing that is not excluded from abstinence-only programs is religion. One course teaches that life begins at fertilization, and another that "a 43-day-old fetus is a thinking person."

For the full report, see Rep. Waxman’s Website:

In Louisiana, the ACLU has renewed its claims charging the state with religious indoctrination in a taxpayer-funded program that advocates abstinence-only to avoid pregnancy and STDs and "to please God." The ACLU claims the program violates a court settlement reached in 2002 over a similar religion-based program that used taxpayer funds to purchase Bibles and religious tapes.

NCAC launched its Sex and Censorship Campaign in 1999, condemning abstinence-only programs as government censorship, as an affront to the principle of church-state separation, and as ineffective and unnecessary. 45 national groups joined in a statement to members of Congress to object to government imposition of ideological views as a mask for education (see Censorship News 80).