Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bush Policy: Rewarding Failed Programs While Children Suffer

President Bush released his outrageous budget cuts to social programs last week, among the 150 programs whose funding was cut:
¶Spending on veterans' medical care would drop 16 percent after inflation, despite an expected surge in costs from veterans of the war in Iraq.

¶Education and vocational training, an area that grew rapidly during Mr. Bush's first term, would decline 15 percent.

¶Basic scientific research would be reduced 13 percent.

¶Nutritional assistance for impoverished mothers and their small children, provided through the Women, Infants and Children program, would be cut by 9.6 percent; some 740,000 fewer people would receive assistance.

The White House has explained these cuts by pointing out:
The more than 150 federal programs that are to be eliminated or substantially reduced either are not succeeding, are duplicating other efforts, or are not essential, the White House said. "Every government program was created with good intentions, but not all are matching good intentions with good results," the president said in defending his $2.57 trillion spending blueprint.

The Administration denies that politics played a part in determining the fate of programs. As reported:
Program assessments "are completed based on evidence," insisted a White House source involved in the process. "Sure, there is professional judgment on what evidence you consider and how much weight you give it, but we try to disclose all of that. There is nothing in our process that influences ratings by presidential priorities."

If that was the case, why then did this President request $39 million in addition funding to a total of $206 million, for "abstinence-only" education programs?

As Governor of Texas, George W. Bush pressed hard for and implemented abstinence-only programs. And how did they work. Not only were these programs a dismal failure, but teens actually had more sex after taking these courses! As reported:
The study showed about 23 percent of ninth-grade girls, typically 13 to 14 years old, had sex before receiving abstinence education. After taking the course, 29 percent of the girls in the same group said they had had sex.

Boys in the tenth grade, about 14 to 15 years old, showed a more marked increase, from 24 percent to 39 percent, after receiving abstinence education.

As Dr. Buzz Pruitt, who directed this study of the Texas program points out:
The federal government is expected to spend about $130 million to fund programs advocating abstinence in 2005, despite a lack of evidence that they work, Pruitt said.

“The jury is still out, but most of what we’ve discovered shows there’s no evidence the large amount of money spent is having an effect,” he said.

But worse yet, many of these "abstinence-only" programs are spreading lies and conveying disparaging remarks about condoms and other birth-control devices. As reported:
Linda Grisham, a science teacher at Temple High School who is working on Scott & White's new ninth grade curriculum, told Human Rights Watch that she plans to use an activity she learned at a recent teacher training to show how condoms are not effective. Participants are given cut-up pieces of plastic or latex of different strengths and thicknesses and asked to identify which one is a condom, a rubber glove, or a plastic bag. "We were shown how condoms were one of the thinnest kinds of plastic [sic] and how easy they were to break with a fingernail."120

Grisham explained that her HIV prevention curriculum promotes abstinence until marriage as the "way to go."

Look at condoms: they don't work. I show the percentages of times that condoms don't work and tell the students that most kids that use condoms don't use them correctly, because they puncture them, or don't put them on all the way. I allow kids to know that maybe condoms will help, but they're not 100 percent safe. I try not to tell them that "it's better than nothing." Condoms are not safe sex, because it doesn't prevent against sexually transmitted diseases.121

However condoms DO help prevent the spread of AIDS. As reported:
There is a broad scientific consensus, including among federal health agencies, that condoms, when used correctly and consistently, are highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS.104 Some Texas abstinence-only programs obscure this important fact and provide misleading information about the efficacy of condoms in protecting against transmission of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

But educators are censored and cannot discuss condoms with their classrooms even if they personally believe that they are in fact effective. As noted:
Texas' federally funded abstinence-only programs restrict information on condoms because they are barred by federal law from "promoting or endorsing" contraceptive use. Texas-based abstinence-only education programs also contend that encouraging abstinence while also teaching about "safe sex" or "safer sex" sends a "mixed message" to young people that is "misleading at best and, at worst, irresponsible."78 These programs also teach that condoms don't adequately protect against sexually transmitted diseases, particularly among teenage users, and therefore there is no such thing as "safe" or "safer" sex with condoms. As a result, abstinence-only programs omit any discussion of condoms and contraception altogether, or provide inaccurate or misleading information about condoms as a method of HIV/AIDS prevention.

And what about John Kerry? During the campaign, this was not a big issue for him. However, it has been reported that he:
Supports federal funding for comprehensive sex education, including but not limited to abstinence.

Senator Kerry, the children of our nation need your leadership in Washington! We have an Administration who cuts essential public programs while expanding programs shown to be ineffective, yet popular with his Fundamentalist base. America can and should do better! Keep that door open for 2008! The health of our children depends on new leadership in Washington!



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