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APHA Scientific Session and Event Listing

Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs: Rolling back the clock on women's rights

William A. Smith, Public Policy Office, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US (SIECUS), 1706 R St NW, Washington, DC 20009, 202-265-2405, wsmith@siecusdc.org

Over the past 22 years, the federal government has spent more than $1 billion federal tax payer money on programs commonly referred to as abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Public health professionals are familiar with much of the research on these programs, but additional knowledge about the actual content of these programs is more elusive. In particular, the messages these programs send to youth about the role of women in society is more properly situated in the 18th century, not the 21st. For example, one program tells young women “if you don't aim to please, don't aim to tease.” Another instructs young women that life naturally proceeds to getting married and having children, and consequently they will have to decide whether they will work or stay home and care for their family. This presentation will provide an overview of the key messages that violate women's rights – and ultimately endanger their health and well-being – in the most popular abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Consideration will also be given to the messages these programs convey about relationships. Exhaustive research and review of these programs and their content will serve as the foundation for the presentation.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Reproductive Health, Sexuality

Related Web page: www.siecus.org/policy/in_their_own_words.pdf

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Not Answered

Human Rights and Reproductive Rights: Experiences of Women

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA