Abstinence-Only Industrial Complex

Rod Parsley’s Center for Moral Clarity is calling its supporters to urge Congress to maintain federal funding for abstinence-only sex ed programs, which have come under fire in the past for inaccuracy and religious content, as well as plain ineffectiveness: a study ordered by Congress reported in April that the programs simply don’t stop teens from having sex. Warning that some members of Congress are opposed to “teaching teens virtue” and plan not to renew some of the funding, the Center writes: “Every parent should be concerned about the dire consequences ahead if Congress stops promoting healthy relationships and instead gambles on ‘safe sex.’”

Meanwhile, a report in the Nation examines how the billion dollars spent on abstinence-only has created an industry marked by “a mix of back-scratching cronyism, hefty partisan campaign donations, high-dollar lobbyists, a revolving door for political appointees and a lack of concern for results.”

One of the chief cooks is a media-shy 63-year-old Catholic multimillionaire, welfare privatizer and Republican donor named Raymond Ruddy. With close ties to the White House, federal health officials and Republican power brokers that date back to W.’s days as Texas governor, Ruddy has leveraged his generous wallet and insider muscle to push an ultraconservative social agenda, enrich a preferred network of abstinence-only and antiabortion groups, boost profits for his company and line the pockets of his cronies–all with taxpayer dollars.

Following the money swirling around Ruddy offers an eye-opening glimpse into the squalor at the heart of the abstinence-only project. One top Bush adviser left to take a job at Ruddy’s charity, Gerard Health Foundation, and a senior officer at Ruddy’s for-profit company, Maximus, left to take a top-level position at the Department of Health and Human Services. Leaders of Christian-right organizations that are Gerard grantees have gained advisory HHS positions–and their organizations have in turn received AIDS and abstinence grants to the tune of at least $25 million. Maximus itself has raked in more than $100 million in federal contracts during the Bush era.