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Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist Calls for Review of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Sex Education Programs

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on Sunday said that the government should review federally funded abstinence-only sex education programs in response to a report released on Wednesday by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the AP/ reports (AP/, 12/5).

According to the report, which was based on Waxman's staff's review of 13 of the most commonly used abstinence-only sex education curricula, 11 of the programs contain "unproved claims, subjective conclusions or outright falsehoods regarding reproductive health, gender traits and when life begins." Some of the claims made by the programs include: that a fetus at 43 days gestation is a "thinking person," that a boy or man can impregnate a woman or girl by touching her genitals, that women who undergo abortion are "more prone to suicide," that 10% of women who undergo abortion become sterile, that 50% of gay male teenagers are HIV-positive, that HIV can be spread through sweat and tears and that condoms fail to prevent sexually transmitted diseases 31% of the time when used during heterosexual intercourse, according to the report.

Several million children have participated in the more than 100 federally funded abstinence-only sex education programs since 1999, when such programs began. Congress in November approved a $388 billion omnibus spending measure (HR 4818) for fiscal year 2005 that includes about $168 million for abstinence education programs (California Healthline, 12/2).

When asked about the report's findings on ABCNews' "This Week," Frist -- who is also a medical doctor -- avoided discussing the medical accuracy of the programs. However, he said that the programs "[o]f course ... should be reviewed," adding, "That's in part our responsibility to make sure that all of these programs are reviewed."

Frist also "touted the benefits" of President Bush's "ABC" -- meaning Abstinence, Be faithful and use Condoms -- campaign in the international fight against HIV/AIDS. "Whether it's abstinence or whether it's a condom or whether it is ... washing hands in terms of the flu, all of these are public health challenges," he said (AP/, 12/5).

NPR's "All Things Considered" on Sunday reported on abstinence-only sex education programs. The segment includes comments from Frist during his appearance on ABCNews' "This Week" about the potential for HIV transmission through sweat and tears (Lewis, "All Things Considered," NPR, 12/5). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.

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