At a recent state-sponsored health conference, a New Mexico health department physician caused controversy when he criticized abstinence-only courses taught in public schools as giving incorrect information about sexually transmitted diseases and condoms. Abstinence educators say Bruce Trigg's claims were unwarranted and unprofessional. Health secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham says she will assess whether Trigg was properly representing the department.
At the conference, Trigg said that groups promoting the abstinence-only courses based their workshop lessons on fear, shame, and homophobia. Course materials distort STD facts and present false information about condom use, he said. "These people are criticizing [programs] that they've never seen," says David Magruder, executive director of Albuquerque-based Best Choice Education Services. Best Choice's curriculum meets state benchmarks and is not hostile to comprehensive sex education, says Magruder, who added that federal guidelines for Best Choice's grants mandate the courses discuss only abstinence until marriage.
Grisham denies claims that the state is opposed to abstinence-only educators, though she acknowledges ordering a curricula review that uncovered inaccurate STD information. "And some people personalize criticism," says Grisham.
The health department has accepted more than $500,000 in federal abstinence grants for next year. However, Grisham says she wishes grantees could teach "abstinence until maturity"--when teens are mature enough to understand the consequences of sex--and how to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancy by using condoms. (AP)