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HHS Urged to Scrutinize Federal Funding for Groups Opposing Abstinence-Only Education

One month after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched an inquiry into AIDS groups demonstrating against HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson during his July speech at the international AIDS conference in Spain, some members of Congress are again attempting to squelch dissidence, this time requesting that HHS investigate the use of federal funding by groups protesting abstinence-only education. Signed by 24 members of the House of Representatives, including Representatives Joseph Pitts (R-PA), David Weldon (R-FL), Tom DeLay (R-TX), and Chris Smith (R-NJ), the letter urges HHS to examine whether campaigns such as “No New Money” headed by Advocates for Youth, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), violate provisions in the FY 2002 Labor-HHS appropriations bill prohibiting federal funds for “publicity or propaganda purposes, for the preparation, distribution or use of any [materials] designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress or any state Legislature,” according to Kaisernetwork.org. Ironically, in July, a US District Judge ruled that Louisiana’s use of taxpayer dollars “to convey religious messages and advance religion” through its abstinence-only education programs was unconstitutional.

Every prominent medical and health organization in the US, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Medicine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Nurses Association, the Institute of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, concede that educating adolescents about proper condom use is imperative to reducing the risk of infection by HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. According to a former surgeon general David Satcher’s June 2001 report entitled The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior, adolescents comprise one-third of the 12 million Americans infected every year with a STD.

Still, the welfare reform bill that passed out of Senate committee in June stipulates $50 million per year in abstinence-only education funding.

Sources:

Kaisernetwork.org 9/30/02, 9/19/02; Human Rights Watch 9/18/02, 9/02; Feminist Daily News Wire; The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior 6/2001

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