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Why Silence Miss America?
Many of Miss America's supporters are questioning why pageant officials immediately tried to silence her on the subject of teen chastity, especially since recent polls and studies show that young people want the message and that teen birth rates and abortion numbers are declining. These trends, they say, should indicate the wisdom of promoting the positive, healthy message of chastity in this age of AIDS and rampant sexually transmitted diseases.

Some contend that Erika Harold's abstinence message simply doesn't jibe with our sex-saturated culture. Alabama state school board candidate and pro-family activist Betty Peters reported that on Oct. 3, MTV sponsored a one-hour program emphasizing the inadvisability of America's schools teaching abstinence-only sex education.

Peters related that the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) "has begun running public service announcements (PSAs) with this same message," and added that a recent issue of Time online (9-29-02) also focused on the abstinence-only sex education debate. One article, "An Rx For Teen Sex," examined several abstinence programs and the growing support for abstinence-only education among members of the medical profession, while a Time.com press release promoted MTV's "Fight for Your Rights" pro-comprehensive ("safe sex") sex ed initiative and announced that "Time magazine" was "joining forces with MTV" to address the "hot-button issue" os teen sex. "An Rx For Teen Sex" provided links to websites that promote comprehensive sex ed and condom distribution in schools.

The Time article stated that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has supported condom use and comprehensive sex education with its "Programs That Work" (see Education Reporter, May 2000), "has been quietly recasting its position on abstinence." According to Time, the CDC pulled the Programs That Work from its website this summer, and is "focusing on abstinence-only programs."

'Advocates for Youth' 
A search of the CDC website by Education Reporter failed to locate the "Programs That Work" but did reveal that one of the CDC's "key partners" in a "Global AIDS Program" is a group called Advocates for Youth, which scorns abstinence education on its website and which has joined forces with MTV in its "fight for your right" to comprehensive sex ed project.

"Just say no didn't work for drugs," Advocates states, "and it won't work for sex." A goal of the joint project with MTV is to cut off abstinence education funding by circulating a petition to youth and their parents both online and through other means. This petition, along with the use of PSAs and a voter registration drive called "Rock the Vote," are designed to defeat Congressmen who support abstinence education funding.

Despite the billions of taxpayer dollars that have funded explicit sex education programs through the CDC, SIECUS, Planned Parenthood, and others, Advocates for Youth whined in a press release that "Thanks to a half billion dollars in government funds allocated since 1996 to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, young people are likely to return to class this year to find that 'ignorance-based' curricula are being used in their schools." The press release promotes Advocates' drive to defeat abstinence education funding.

Failure of 'Safe Sex'  
Last year, two physician's groups representing 10,000 doctors nationwide publicly called for the director of the CDC to step down, citing the failure of CDC's "safe sex" campaign to protect the public. The Catholic Medical Association and the Physicians Consortium accused the agency of covering up the deficiencies of condom use and withholding that information from American citizens.

Former Oklahoma Congressman Tom Coburn, a practicing physician and spokesman for the Physicians Consortium, stated that over the past 15 years "we have seen a tremendous increase in sexually transmitted diseases," and that part of the blame lies with the safe sex message disseminated by the CDC and others.

Last month, the National Physicians Center for Family Resources issued a press release applauding Erika Harold's stand on abstinence education and chastising the Miss America pageant for attempting to silence her. The news release cited the health-risk behaviors associated with early sexual involvement, including the fact that, "every day in the United States, 8,000 adolescents contract a sexually transmitted disease."

Undeterred by the facts and statistics compiled by these physicians groups, the comprehensive sex ed forces - through websites such as that of MTV, Advocates for Youth, the Coalition for Positive Sexuality, and Planned Parenthood's Teenwire, - continue their promotion of "safe sex," along with efforts to cut off funds for abstinence programs.

"It's no wonder Miss America's 'abstinence only' message has garnered such opposition," observes Betty Peters. "But she has successfully interwoven abstinence with violence prevention, because research shows that destructive behaviors such as teen promiscuity and violence are inextricably linked."

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