I Am Mad About A Thing: Federal Money To Tell Kids To Shut Their Legs For Jesus
You know what is a terrific way to waste millions of dollars? Teaching kids that the only thing they need to know about sex is to just not do that. If you’re looking to invest money in something proven to be utterly ineffective, and in fact harmful, abstinence-only education is the thing for you.
We know, because of all the studies and also Bristol Palin and now another fine example of how abstinence-only education leads to being 17 and pregnant, that teaching kids to just not do that does not keep them from doing that — not even when they have creepy cotillions for Christ where they promise their daddies they will definitely not do that before marriage, wink wink.
We also know that these programs outright lie to kids to scare them away from doing sex, which is mean and dumb and still doesn’t work — unless the goal is to increase the risk of unintended pregnancy and disease among these kids, in which case, yeah, the plan is going swimmingly. A congressional report in 2004 found that abstinence-only programs were teaching false and misleading information about sex and contraception.
Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person’s genitals “can result in pregnancy,” a congressional staff analysis has found.
And in case that doesn’t scare kids celibate (which it hasn’t), the Las Vegas Police Department recently sponsored a super-fun Saturday night to tell girls (just girls, naturally, because girls are solely responsible for all the sex), that if they don’t “Choose Purity,” they will probably become prostitutes or gang bangers or rape victims, or end up dead from overdosing on diet pills. Just a guess, but that probably won’t stop kids from doing sex either.
Abstinence-only programs have always been a waste of money, but when those tax dollars were funneled to schools and religious organizations under George W. Bush, it wasn’t exactly surprising. We all know Bush’s devotion to spreading misinformation. And wasting money. And helping his Christian fundamentalist friends who are not the least bit shy about their theocratic ambitions.
Under President Obama, though? As a candidate, and of course The Father of Two DaughtersTM, he promised to stop wasting money to make our kids stupid and put them at further risk. Yet, per this unbelievably depressing report from The Nation, we are still spending millions of dollars on stupid.
The Affordable Care Act set aside funds for abstinence-only through state block grants. Competitive abstinence grants to directly fund abstinence-only groups reappeared. And Obama expanded states’ ability to use leftover TANF funds, slotted for work programs, to be funneled instead to marriage promotion and abstinence-only programs. […] The result is that since Obama took office his administration has awarded over $170 million in abstinence-only grants, $36.8 million last year alone.
Is a $170 million a lot of money? I don’t know; I’m not an economist. But it sure sounds like a lot. Especially when we could just as easily set that money on fire or let the Pentagon lose it, and it would work just as well.
And in 2011, a definitive nine-year study by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that “these programs have no beneficial impact on young people’s sexual behavior.”
If you think investing tax dollars to make our kids stupid is a great idea, you’ll love that some of this abstinence-only cash is going directly to Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which are basically Christian proselytizing organizations masquerading as “health care.”
Take the Evansville Christian Life Center, located in Evansville, Indiana, which won a competitive federal abstinence-only grant for $244,110 in September 2012. The center’s mission is summed up in its tag line: “Restoring the Lives of Families and Individuals through Jesus Christ.” As CPCs typically do, it promises support for pregnant women, including a free pregnancy test and ultrasound, as long as the women sit through testimony from a counselor first.
What are the odds that a woman who wants to confirm that she is pregnant and discuss her options want actual medical information from an actual medical professional — the kind she’d find at Planned Parenthood, for example, which conservatives are constantly trying to defund because taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay for that sort of thing — be just as happy to instead receive “testimony” from a “counselor”? I don’t know, maybe zero?
An extensive 10-month investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina revealed some of the despicable and yes, quite common, practices by CPCs. Like how most of these centers — 61 out of 66 — don’t even have actual medical professionals on staff, and less than a quarter of them actually disclose to their “patients” that they are not real medical facilities.
Even in the rare cases of centers that are overseen by medical professionals, there are no regulations in place to ensure that confidentiality is protected and that women will receive medically accurate information and services that meet an appropriate standard of care with respect to all reproductive health options.
Here is some of the nifty “medical” information women receive at these centers:
- 26% (17 of 66 CPCs) incorrectly stated as fact that abortion leads to breast cancer.
- 48% (32 CPCs) advised women seeking family planning services that none of the common methods of birth control are effective at preventing pregnancy.
- 24% (16 CPCs) suggested the high possibility of miscarriage as a reason to avoid an abortion.
You won’t receive real medical information at these centers that receive tax dollars through Health and Human Services programs, but if you’re lucky, you’ll find out how to get into heaven, which is basically the same thing.
[O]ne investigator who posed as a pregnant Jewish woman was given a Bible and told by volunteers at five different CPCs that she would not go to heaven unless she became a Christian.
Yup, that sure sounds like a great use of tax dollars, doesn’t it?
It’s not exactly BREAKING!!! news that the government wastes a lot of money on really dumb stuff. We wage wars for no reason that are supposed to pay for themselves and yet somehow do not. Huh, weird. We give so much money to the Pentagon that it can even misplace $9 billion (they checked; it’s not under the couch) and keep on getting more because otherwise America will not be safe or something. We pay six-figure salaries to elected representatives who whine it’s barely enough to live on, while trying to cut programs to help Americans who make far less than they do because hey, if you own a refrigerator, well, you can’t be too bad off, can you?
But spending money on programs we know for a fact don’t work seems especially … oh, what’s the word? … stupid. Telling kids “just don’t do that” is not disease or pregnancy prevention, and telling pregnant women to read the Bible is not health care. Yet for some reason, our government pretends this is a terrific use of our money, so let’s keep doing that. Even at the expense of funding real health care and education, which is constantly under attack from people who think taxpayers should not be forced to pay for health care, but paying for proselytizing is okey-dokey.
We could use those millions of dollars on programs that work, that actually reduce unintended pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. We could invest in health care for women instead of “counseling” and “testimony.” But nah. That would be the smart thing to do, and we all know how un-American that is.
[Via The Nation]
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