NEW ORLEANS - The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana today sent a letter to the Governor's Program on Abstinence (GPA) identifying medically inaccurate information in its abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum. The ACLU called on the GPA to correct the inaccuracies and to review the entire curriculum to ensure that it provides students with accurate unbiased information consistent with Louisiana and federal law.
"The curriculum for the Governor's Program on Abstinence spreads misinformation about the effectiveness of condoms and endangers teens' health," said Joe Cook, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "Teens need complete and accurate information about how to protect themselves against unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases."
Today's letter to the GPA said the program's abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum is inconsistent with state and federal law requiring certain educational materials to contain medically accurate information about condom effectiveness. In reference to preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the curriculum states that "[t]here is no clinical proof showing condom effectiveness" and claims that condoms "are only about 80% effective at preventing pregnancy, which leave about a 1 in 5 chance of becoming pregnant (something like Russian roulette)." In fact, reliable authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, note that when used consistently and correctly, condoms effectively protect against STDs, including HIV, and are 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.
"This is not the first time that the Governor's Program on Abstinence has been asked to address a serious problem in its abstinence-only-until-marriage programs," said Cook. "Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs don't work, and it is high time that the state recognize this fact."
In 2002, the ACLU brought a legal challenge against the GPA for the misuse of taxpayer dollars to promote religion in its abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Under the settlement agreement the GPA agreed to closely monitor the activities of all grantees and to stop using public money to "convey religious messages or otherwise advance religion in any way."
Today the ACLU of Louisiana joins ten other ACLU affiliates including, the Alaska Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Arizona, ACLU of Florida, ACLU of Illinois, ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, ACLU of Kentucky, ACLU of New Jersey, Rhode Island ACLU, ACLU of Tennessee, and ACLU of Texas, that have in recent weeks called upon state officials to fix medical inaccuracies in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in their states.
In early April, a federally commissioned study was released showing that, notwithstanding the more than a billion dollars that the federal government has poured into the programs since 1996, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs don't work. The study looked at several federally funded programs and found that teens who participated in them were just as likely to have sex as teens who did not participate. Furthermore, these students had first intercourse at the same age, and the same number of sexual partners, as students who did not participate.
Currently, no federal funds are dedicated to supporting sexuality education programs that both teach abstinence and include complete and medically accurate information about how to use contraceptives effectively, despite evidence that these programs can delay sexual activity and increase contraceptive use among teens.