Published on Saturday, August 16, 2003 by the Washington Post
Sex-Ed Group Faces New Review
Government Plans a Third Look at Advocates for Youth
by Marc Kaufman
The Bush administration will conduct the third review within one year of the comprehensive sex education organization Advocates for Youth, prompting the group and a congressman to charge that it is being punished because of its opposition to abstinence-only AIDS prevention programs.
The CDC said the review was in response to complaints from Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-Pa.), an advocate for abstinence-only programs. Pitts and 23 other congressmen have questioned whether Advocates for Youth and other sex education organizations are improperly using federal funds to lobby in Congress. In particular, they were concerned about a Web site that advocates against increased funds for abstinence-only programs.
According to Advocates for Youth spokesman Bill Barker, the group has received grants from the CDC for 15 years without any requests for reviews or audits, yet now has received three requests in the past year -- two from the CDC and one from the General Accounting Office.
"Advocates is concerned that it appears that the selective and political use of these audits is to intimidate organizations such as ours that support comprehensive sex education," Barker said. "They want to impose a kind of censorship."
The Bush administration, and many conservative groups, have supported abstinence-only programs as the best way to educate children about sexuality and to keep them safe from HIV and AIDS. That position was written as an amendment into the recently signed international AIDS bill, which mandates that one-third of the prevention money from the legislation pay for abstinence education. The amendment, introduced by Pitts, passed the House 220-197 and was incorporated into the Senate bill and passed under rules that barred adding or removing amendments.
Advocates for Youth, as well as mainstream organizations such as the American Medical Association and the congressionally mandated Institute of Medicine, have supported more comprehensive efforts that include discussions of abstinence as well as information for the sexually active on how to use condoms and other birth control methods.
Advocates for Youth is a small, Washington-based nonprofit that trains people to teach sex education and the prevention of HIV and AIDS. Barker said that in the previous two reviews in the past year, the group cooperated fully and the investigators were satisfied there were no problems.
According to Kathy Harben, spokeswoman for CDC, an agency visit several weeks ago to Advocates for Youth was part of an increase in visits to all groups receiving CDC grants. She said Monday's review will be for the additional financial review requested by Pitts and the 23 other congressmen.
Pitts's spokesman, Derek Karchner, said the congressman wanted to know whether Advocates for Youth and other sex education groups were improperly using their federal grant money to lobby Congress. He said the congressman was particularly concerned about whether federal money was used to help create the Web site www.NoNewMoney.org, which advocates against funding abstinence-only programs.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) wrote a letter yesterday to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson protesting the audits, which he called politically motivated.
"While Advocates for Youth will have opened its books three times in the last year, it appears that comparable organizations that routinely support Bush Administration policies have not experienced any such review," Waxman wrote. "In short, whether a group believes that abstinence is the only acceptable means of achieving AIDS prevention seems to be the determining factor in these auditing decisions."
© 2003 The Washington Post Company