Washington State's Governor's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS has asked Gov. Gary Locke to refuse to accept federal money for educational programs that teach abstinence as the only method to prevent pregnancy, HIV infection, and other sexually transmitted diseases, The Seattle Times reports. Abstinence-only programs "do not give students complete information that they need to help them make responsible choices about their sexual activity," wrote GACHA chairwoman Judith Billings in a letter to Locke. "To deny them a balanced program that offers life-saving knowledge is irresponsible."
Since 1997, Washington has received about $739,000 a year in federal funds for abstinence-based education. Programs funded by the federal money are prohibited from mentioning condoms or any other form of contraception. About 50 schools and four community-based groups in the state currently run such programs. State law requires Washington officials to apply annually for the federal grant, which must be matched by about $554,000 in state funds. GACHA is urging Locke to not apply for the federal grant or to spend state money on abstinence-only education in 2003.
"Council members are strongly in favor of comprehensive health education, which includes abstinence as a choice, but just as strongly unanimously oppose attempted indoctrination to a particular political-moral dogma that attempts to pass as good public education," the letter to Locke said.
A spokesman for the governor said Locke plans to further study the issue before issuing a decision on whether to reapply for the federal grant.