TRENTON, N.J. -- Advocates for comprehensive sex education praised Governor Corzine's decision today to reject onerous and overly restrictive federal funding to provide abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in New Jersey. The federally designed abstinence-only-until-marriage program violates students' rights, embraces sexist stereotypes, isolates GLBT youth, promulgates religious views and contradicts New Jersey's core curriculum for stress-abstinence comprehensive sex education.
"All students have a right to accurate and honest sexuality education and Governor Corzine's actions speak to the heart of the matter: we must not mislead and misinform our young people when it comes to sexuality education, because to do so leaves them at great risk" said C. Danene Sorace, Director of Answer at Rutgers University, a leading national organization dedicated to providing and promoting comprehensive adolescent sexuality education. "The mandates that come with the federal funding are simply not right for New Jersey. We refuse to leave our young people in the dark about their sexual health," continued Sorace.
In an October 24 letter from Fred M. Jacobs, Commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, and Lucille Davy, Commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Education, to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, the state of New Jersey informed the federal government of its decision, explaining that the abstinence-only-until-marriage guidelines contradict the core curriculum content standard in comprehensive sex education that New Jersey has had in place for more than 25 years. Moreover, the governor's office cautioned that accepting federal abstinence-only dollars may in fact cost the state money because students may require additional sex education to clarify the partial and misinformation that is taught in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
New Jersey has received abstinence-only-until-marriage funding since 1997. In past years, the federal government allowed states the flexibility to run programs in a way that was consistent with its core curriculum content standards. This year, however, the federal government is requiring strict adherence to all the elements of the abstinence program.
"We are pleased that New Jersey has put the health and well-being of our teenagers first," said Deborah Jacobs, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which urged the governor's office to reject the abstinence-only funding. "We need to put resources into programs that work, include medically accurate information and protect teens from discrimination."
Recently, the Society for Adolescent Medicine, in one of the most exhaustive reviews to date of government-funded abstinence-only programs, rejected the current administration's policy that promotes abstinence as the only sexual health prevention strategy for young people.
Reports show that many abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula used by federally funded programs contain false and misleading information and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Alarmingly, these curricula also misrepresent the effectiveness of contraceptives by vastly understating the effectiveness of condoms at protecting against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and preventing unintended pregnancy. Such misinformation is particularly alarming given that each year in the United States, nearly 9.1 million 15- to 24-year olds are infected with an STD and more than 800,000 15- to 19-year olds become pregnant.
"New Jersey's decision to reject the dictates of Washington ideologues in favor of its own state's laws sends a clear message that Washington should stop playing politics and give states the flexibility to craft and fund programs that meet their own needs in helping youth make good decisions," said William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US, a leading sexuality education advocacy group. "New Jersey is not alone, joining other states like Maine, Pennsylvania and California, in taking a principled stand in turning back funds tied to these policies of extremism," Smith continued.