Government-Funded Sex Ed Spreads False Info, Critics Say

ByABC News
December 1, 2004, 7:23 PM

Dec. 1, 2004 — -- Abstinence-only sex education is a cornerstone of the Bush administration's education policy. Federal funding for such programs has more than doubled during the last four years; Congress has appropriated nearly $170 million for next year, up from $80 million in 2001.

"We need to tell our children that abstinence is the only certain way to avoid contacting HIV," President Bush said at a June news conference. "It works every time."

But today, California Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, said 13 of the most popular abstinence-only programs are spreading false information.

"The curricula seems to be driven by an ideology," he said in releasing a report on the abstinence-only programs. "And to further their ideological goals, they're making factual statements that are not correct."

The report, for instance, criticizes one curriculum from Project Reality, a group that develops and teaches abstinence programs, which tells students "the popular claim that condoms help prevent the spread of STDs" -- or sexually transmitted diseases -- "is not supported by the data."

That claim, however, is contradicted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which states on its Web site that "correct and consistent use of the male latex condom can reduce the risk of STD transmission."

A spokeswoman for Project Reality told ABC News that Waxman took that quote out of context, and that the document in question provides many details on the effectiveness of condom use. That condoms "are not effective in preventing the spread of HPV, which is the most common STD and has no cure," for instance. High-risk forms of HPV, the human papillomavirus, can lead to cancer of the cervix, while lower-risk strains can lead to genital warts.

Bruce Cook, founder of the Atlanta-based abstinence education group "Choosing the Best" -- one of the groups criticized -- says the report takes much of his material out of context.

"I think they put everything in a jar and stirred it up and tried to produce some headlines that are very misleading," he said.

In some instances, Waxman's criticisms are matters of context, Cook said. The report faults his group for stating that condoms are ineffective 15 percent of the time.

"I know the percentage they want to get out there is the 2 (percent) to 3 percent in a laboratory," Cook said. "But that's not real life for kids and they need to have some kind of idea that if I use this in the normal context of life, this is what I can expect."

The report also faults various programs for treating "stereotypes about boys and girls as scientific fact."