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Censorship of Sex Education No. 154

Adopted 2001
Reaffirmed 2002
Amended 2003
Amended 2004
Amended 2005


In 1996, as part of the omnibus "welfare reform" bill, Congress began a program of abstinence education to provide funds to schools that restrict students' access to information about sex education. As stated in the bill, the purpose is to limit learning to one government-approved message about sexuality: "that mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity" and "that sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects." The bill further "teaches the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity."

These programs don't just encourage abstinence; they prevent students from getting information that is vital to their health and lives. For example, they prevent safer-sex messages in relation to condoms and contraception is eliminated. Materials about contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual orientation have been razored out from textbooks. Teachers have been threatened with discipline for answering students' questions on certain subjects.

Censored sex education has proven time and time again not to prevent risky sexual behavior. The United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the developed world. In fact, students who participate in abstinence-only classes do not abstain from intercourse longer than others. When they do become sexually active, though, they often fail to use condoms or other contraceptives. The "approach places policy in direct conflict with science and ignores overwhelming evidence that other programs would be effective," according to world leaders in AIDS research and prevention.

The abstinence-only education program was reauthorized in 2002. ADA actively opposed its reauthorization. For the fiscal year 2005, the proposed budget for community-based abstinence education more than doubles from the 2004 levels to a total of $186 million. Total funding for all abstinence-only education has more than doubled as well, to $273 million. ADA opposes this increased funding for abstinence-only education programs.

ADA actively opposes sex education that teaches abstinence as the only option. ADA supports the funding of comprehensive sex education which provides students with a wide range of health care information and options and which permits teachers to respond to students' questions. Furthermore, ADA supports holistic programs for teens that build self-awareness, self-esteem and self-confidence.

ADA deplores the Bush Administration's attempts to prevent an international consensus among 180 nations on a global plan of action to promote children's well-being and rights by opposing sexuality education for teens at the U.N. Children's Summit.

In a flagrant triumph of politics over science, an official government web site has removed accurate medical information and substituted Bush Administration-approved misinformation. Two examples:

  1. Under extreme pressure from the Bush Administration and their supporters, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) changed its website to delete information that a link between abortion and breast cancer does not exist and replaced it with a statement claiming that a link between abortion and breast cancer remains unproven, when in fact studies have clearly proven that no such link exists. Eventually, under pressure, the NCI returned its initial accurate statement to the website

  2. Again at the behest of the Bush Administration, all references to condoms as protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease were removed from the Center for Disease Control website. Instead, condoms are mentioned only in reference to their high failure rate.

ADA opposes the elevation of conservative ideology over scientific knowledge at the expense of the health and safety of women and children worldwide.

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No. 154

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