The War on Sex Ed Targets Planned Parenthood, Women and Homosexuals

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Analysis Sexual Health

The War on Sex Ed Targets Planned Parenthood, Women and Homosexuals

Andy Kopsa

In preparation for what may eventually be another Lila Rose grainy expose trumpeted by the Right, it’s helpful to brush up on where millions and millions of tax-dollars are going to pay for sex “education:” ineffective and stigmatizing abstinence-only-until marriage programs.

 It is being reported that Live Action’s Lila Rose is planning the next step in her ongoing effort to defund Planned Parenthood:  take away its sex-ed money.  Rose is lamenting the fact that Planned Parenthood got federal money to implement evidenced based comprehensive sex education via PREP  – Personal Responsibility Education Program – funding.  Wisconsin is considering a bill – SB 237 – to kill comprehensive sex-ed in the state and reinstitute abstinence-only-until-marriage programming. 

In preparation for what may eventually be another Lila Rose grainy expose trumpeted by the Right, it’s helpful to brush up on where millions and millions of tax-dollars are going to pay for sex “education:” ineffective and stigmatizing abstinence-only-until marriage programs.

Study after study has revealed the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only programs in reducing the number of teen pregnancies and reducing the spread of disease. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, virginity pledges, a staple of abstinence-only programming, not only did not decrease occurrences of teen STDs, but actually resulted in pledge-takers not seeking medical attention once infected, leading to an increased possibility of transmission.

Abstinence-only programs come under fire for questionable instructional methods and curricula as well. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) periodically releases in-depth reviews of abstinence-only programs and regularly finds that they often rely on messages of fear and shame to encourage abstinence and promote biased views of gender, marriage, and pregnancy options.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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Yet Americans have spent more than $1.5 billion on abstinence-only programs over the past fifteen years through Title V of the Social Security Act and other federal legislation. The programs really flourished under President George W. Bush, who created an injection of funding with his Community-Based Abstinence Education grants. President Barack Obama did away with this funding stream, but during the fight in Congress over health-care reform, Republicans put $250 million for abstinence-only programs into the Affordable Healthcare Act.

I have covered two abstinence-only groups specifically in the past year, investigating their methods, connections and over $14 million combined in federal and state grants.  Project SOS in Florida and WAIT (Why Am I Tempted?) Training – now known as The Center for Relationship Education – based in Denver.

Project SOS has received over $6.5 million in federal money since 2002, but the group decided not to apply for funding this year.  SOS had ties with the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda through one of its most vocal advocates, Pastor Martin Ssempa.  The group’s founder, Pam Mullarkey, was an ardent supporter of Ssempa quoted on his website as saying, “Martin Ssempa is the man to watch. He’s the most powerful voice for abstinence in the world and his passion, charisma and character make his vital message irresistible.”  Mullarkey says Project SOS was laid out in its entirety to her over the course of five evenings by God.  And, like so many other ab-only programs, SOS was cited for peddling erroneous medical information in its curriculum and relying on shame and fear as means of instruction.

WAIT/CRE has gotten over $8 million in federal funds and just this year was part of an end run around former-Colorado Governor Ritter – who rejected Title V in favor of PREP – to obtain an additional $233,000 a year for the next three years.

During an assembly in a Colorado high school Shelley Donahue, one of WAIT/CRE’s motivational speakers told her audience:  girls’ brains are like spaghetti, boys’ brains are like waffles…boys tuck schoolbooks under their arms at the waist, girls cradle theirs like a baby…boys were made to pursue girls and girls were made to wait to be pursued by boys…we have an entire generation of girls looking for daddy love…you just have to get that viable sperm close to her vagina and she turns on the little Hoover vacuum, because girls are very, very fertile.

At the same lecture, Donahue used a participatory activity outlined in the WAIT/CRE curriculum to show how sex prior to marriage negatively impacts a person’s ability to bond to a mate in the future. Donahue had a boy join her at the front of the auditorium. She instructed him to bare his arm, then ripped a long piece of clear packing tape off a roll and held it up to the audience; the boy’s girlfriend.

Donahue applied the tape to the boy’s arm and rubbed it briskly to ensure that it bonded, talking about how the tape would probably not become the boy’s wife.  She then ripped tape from his arm – he broke up with her – and held it up for the students to see.  The tape was covered with bits of the boy’s dried skin and hair. Donahue commented on how gross the tape was and repeated the operation over and over again. Each time the tape pulled up more debris and lost more of its ability to make a tight bond.

The implication is the girl is now dirty, soiled for her future husband.  She will go on to have problems in her future “bonding” with another man.  This too is common in abstinence-only curricula.  The girl burdened with the actions of the boy, responsible for guarding her purity from him. There is lip service paid to the boy’s responsibility but mostly in the form of excuses:  raging hormones, constantly producing sperm, the girl’s shirts are too low-cut.

According to one Colorado blogger, who attended another of Donahue’s WAIT/CRE lecture, Donahue told the group that the HPV vaccine “will leave them sterile.”  A familiar lie used by the right wing based on their belief that for young women, a potentially life saving vaccine’s most dangerous side effect is immorality and promiscuity.

You can watch the hour long video for yourself.  Not only do the gender stereotyping and nonsensical explanations about how one becomes pregnant continue, but so does the reinforcing of heterosexual marriage as the only way to live a happy productive life is the order of the day.  And all of this is pulled directly from WAIT/CRE’s curriculum. Donahue says something akin to getting right with God in reference to pre-marital sex and mentions the deity several more times throughout the presentation.

According to a GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network) study “a significantly greater portion of students in schools that used an abstinence-only curriculum reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and gender expression—64.8 percent of these students felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation compared to 57.3 percent of all other students.”

A circular issued by the Administration for Children Families, the government agency that distributes abstinence money, recommends Title V grantees,  “… consider the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth and how their programs will be inclusive of and non- stigmatizing toward such participants.”

WAIT/CRE’s founder Joneen Mackenzie reported on her state application for Title V funding that, “The American Psychological Association Gay and Lesbian Issues Team have vetted the WAIT Training Curriculum for inclusive language and appropriate activities that include all students…only data driven curricula that is inclusive and not stigmatizing to this population will be utilized in this effort.”

The APA’s Clinton Anderson, associate executive director and director of the APA’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Office says otherwise, “we never conveyed any sort of approval to WAIT Training as being adequately inclusive or appropriate for lesbian, gay and bisexual students.” In fact, the APA  supports comprehensive sex education and has made recommendations for inclusive messaging.

As a result of Mackenzie’s misrepresention of WAIT/CRE as LTBTQ friendly, along with ethical questions about the way the Title V funding was obtained, Colorado Ethics Watch has called for an investigation.

Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch said, “It looks like WAIT violated that ethical standard here by claiming that the APA ‘vetted’ WAIT’s LGBT inclusiveness criteria when the APA says that did not happen. Obtaining government dollars by falsely claiming to be inclusive and tolerant of gay and lesbian youth actually hurts those young people.”

Project SOS and WAIT/CRE are but two examples.  They don’t even scratch the surface when it comes to outing the legion of discriminatory, shaming, and worst of all medically erroneous abstinence-only programs – but they are unfortunately representative. Fraudulent crisis pregnancy centers and state affiliates of Focus on the Family have received millions of your tax dollars to talk to kids about heterosexual marriage in the guise of sexual education – probably in a school near you.

There are two bills concerning abstinence funding sitting in the House of Representatives.  One, introduced by Representative Barbara Lee, is pushing to end abstinence funding and reallocate funding to comprehensive sex ed and the other is an appropriations bill to re-up the funding introduced by the Republicans.  Due to the state of the economy, rampant unemployment, and a burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement one of these bills – the Lee bill – is likely to go nowhere.

The Republicans, champions of job creation, will probably find time to debate their bill, lobbying for abstinence-only programs because the real problem with the economy is the downfall of the family and traditional marriage – just ask any of the GOP hopefuls. 

Perhaps the bill’s debate will coincide with the release of Live Action’s expose on Planned Parenthood teaching your teenager how to have dirty out-out-of wedlock sex by showing them how to roll a condom over a banana.  This is a possibility we who value comprehensive sex education and loathe the funding of hokum should be prepared for.

What you can do:

There are two bills floating around the House: one introduced by Barbara Lee (California) to defund abstinence only programs reallocating that money to comprehensive sex ed.  And House appropriations bill (introduced by the Republican majority) to dismantle comprehensive sex ed and dump tax dollars into ineffective, discriminatory and religious based abstinence-only until marriage programming.  (If you would like to read why I and many others believe this is a bad idea – you can click on this link or scroll down.)

After my writeup posted on Alternet, there was a comment asking about who they could call in DC about this and the bill number. Here is a copy of Lee’s press release.  The bill number is HB 1085 and in the Senate S 578 (introduced by Senator Lautenburg of New Jersey)

Cosponsors in the House and Senate:  The co-sponsors of the House bill are: Diana DeGette (CO-01), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Sam Farr (CA-17), Bob Filner (CA-51), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07), Luis Gutierrez (IL-04), Rush Holt (NJ-12), Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL-02), Nita Lowey (NY-18), Carolyn Maloney (NY-14), James McGovern (MA-03), Gwen Moore (WI-04), James Moran (VA-08), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), John Olver (MA-01), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Charles Rangel (NY-15), Janice Schakowsky (IL-09), Pete Stark (CA-13), Lynn Woolsey (CA-06). 

The bill is co-sponsored in the Senate by Mark Begich (D-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), John Kerry (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR).

To contact Representative Lee to encourage movement on this bill:

Washington, D.C. Office
2267 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2661 Fax: (202) 225-9817
Hours of Operation: 9am – 5pm EST

To contact individual Representatives and Senators visit