Iowa State Profile
The Department of Public Health and community-based organizations in Iowa received $1,518,198 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2007. 1
Iowa mandates that health education be taught in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Iowa law details what must be included in health education by grade. In first through sixth grade, “the health curriculum shall include the characteristics of communicable diseases including acquired immune deficiency syndrome [AIDS].” In seventh and eighth grade, health education must “include the characteristics of sexually transmitted disease and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.” In ninth through twelfth grade, (students must take health education at least once during these four grades), health education must include information on “the prevention and control of disease, including sexually transmitted diseases [STDs] and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.” Additionally, health curricula must include information about Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and the HPV vaccine. Iowa law mandates that the curricula use materials that are up-to-date, age-appropriate, and research-based/medically accurate; furthermore, all information must be free of biases based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. School districts may teach age-appropriate, science-based, comprehensive sexuality education as part of the health curriculum, but may also use abstinence-only materials so long as those materials fall within the parameters of the law.
Parents or guardians may remove their children from any part of health education courses if the course conflicts with the student’s religious beliefs. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
See Iowa Code 279.50, 256.11, m and Iowa Administrative Code 281-12.5 and House File 611.
Bill would require increased funding for HIV/AIDS assistance for ethnic minorities
House Bill 205, introduced in February 2007 and sent to the Committee on Appropriations, sought to increase HIV/AIDS assistance for racial and ethnic minority populations in the state. The bill called for $600,000 “to supplement funding provided through the federal Ryan White Care Act” in order to help improve HIV-related outcomes amongst these populations. The bill died.
Legislation Expands Civil Rights to LGBT Individuals
Senate Bill 427, introduced in March 2007, prohibits discriminatory employment, public accommodation, housing, education, and credit practices based upon a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. However, bona fide religious institutions will be allowed to impose certain restrictions based on sexual orientation or gender identity if related to a bona fide religious purpose. This bill passed in both the Senate and the House and was signed by Governor Chet Culver on May 25, 2007.
Legislation Calls for HPV Awareness and Vaccine Assistance
House Bill 661, introduced in March 2007, would require the Department of Public Health to enact a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination public awareness program. Using medically accurate materials, the program would have conveyed information regarding the link between HPV and cervical cancer, as well as information about the availability, effectiveness, and risks of HPV vaccination. Furthermore, the bill would have appropriated funds to the Department of Human Services for providing the HPV vaccination to persons below 250% of the federal poverty level who are not covered for HPV vaccination by insurance. The bill died.
Cancellation Does Not Stop the Spread of Anti-Abortion Rhetoric
September 2007; Des Moines, Iowa
Alveda King, a staunch anti-abortion activist and relative of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was scheduled to speak at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines Iowa. Dr. King planned to discuss her life’s journey and what she called “dream-blockers,” namely teenage pregnancy and abortion. The principal, however, cancelled the event.
Dr. King instead spoke at Dowling Catholic High School. Her presentation focused on abortion, labeling it a genocidal weapon used to cull the Black population of the United States. It also included misinformation such as the erroneous link between abortion and breast cancer.
King also spoke about abstinence and said, “sex outside of God ordained marriage is counterfeit and unfulfilling. This includes…homosexuality.”
The president of Dowling’s Students for Life club indicated the presentation provided “an unbiased perspective.”2 The principal of the public school, however, stood by his decision to cancel the presentation saying that he believed that the speech was biased and that it would be unfair not to present both sides of the debate.
Ban Reversal Returns Gilbert Grape to the Classroom
January 2007; Carroll, Iowa
After parents complained about the sexual content in Peter Hedges’ What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, the superintendent of schools temporarily pulled the book from the high school’s literature and movie course curriculum.
The novel depicts a 24-year-old young man trying to balance a stifling family life with his own aspirations to escape his struggling rural town. Parents objected to the depictions of protagonist’s sexual interactions. In response, the school board convened a review committee made up of district employees, community members, and students.
Some committee members felt that “the novel has objectionable sexual content,” but others believed that even “reluctant readers” may find themselves in the characters.3 The committee recommended reinstating the book.
The book’s author weighed in the controversy saying that he was disappointed that there was so much focus on the sexuality in the book, while the larger themes of redemption, hope, and responsibilities to oneself and others seemed to be ignored. He added that the book’s content was appropriate for juniors and seniors, though it pales in comparison to the realities of the outside world.4
Following the committee’s recommendation, the board voted 4–1 to reverse the ban and return the book to the library’s shelves and the course curriculum. However, the board required that parents provide consent in writing before their child begins reading the novel.5
Iowa received $318,198 in federal Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding in Fiscal Year 2007. The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage grant requires states to provide three state-raised dollars or the equivalent in services for every four federal dollars received. The state match may be provided in part or in full by local groups. In Iowa, funds are matched one to one by sub-grantees. The Iowa Department of Public Health uses part of the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funds for a statewide media campaign, and the production company contracted for this media effort provides a portion of the state match through additional in-kind services.
Iowa’s statewide abstinence-only-until-marriage campaign is titled “I am” or Iowa’s Abstinence Mission. The campaign is broadcast throughout the state and at sporting events with messages created by students. Many of the messages rely on fear and shame. For example, one ad uses a message from TJ, age 14: “I am the one who said ‘no’ because I know what the risks are. I know what could happen if I get an STD. I also know by having sex my friends might not respect me anymore.” Similarly, a billboard used by the “I am” campaign warns “Wait for the bling” alongside a pregnant woman without a ring on her left hand.
The Crittenton Center of Sioux City, one of the state’s sub-grantees also uses Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage monies to conduct a media campaign.7 Based on the state effort, the organization creates a competition in local schools to design the next “I am” message. A winning billboard designed by a local student displayed a picture of a pregnancy test with the wording, “Tired of waiting for results? Try abstinence.”
The Iowa Department of Health oversees this funding and provides grants to eight sub-grantees: Allen Memorial Hospital (Women’s Health Center); Bethany Christian Services of Northwest Iowa; Community Opportunities, Inc., doing business as New Opportunities, Inc.; The Crittenton Center; North Iowa Community Action Organization; University of Iowa; Webster County Department of Health; and the Young Parents Network.
Sub-grantees in Iowa use a variety of abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula, however, the most popular programs are: ASPIRE: Live your life. Be free., A.C. Green’s Game Plan, RSVP: Responsible Social Value Program, and WorththeWait. Other curricula used are: Abstinence: Pick and Choose; Bring It On Home;the Choosing the Best series; Contraception and Teens; Girl Talk, Guy Talk; It Takes Two: Pregnancy Prevention Programming; No Apologies: The Truth About Life, Love and Sex; Parents and Kids Can Talk; Navigator; Sex Can Wait; Wise Guys: Male Responsibility Curriculum; and Why kNOw. Sub-grantees also use the videos: Mike Long’s Everyone Is Not Doing It andFocus on the Family’s Sex, Lies, and Truth. SIECUS reviewed many of the most commonly used curricula in Iowa.
In our review of ASPIRE: Live your life. Be free we found that the program is based on one set of values and opinions—that marriage should be everyone’s ultimate goal and that sex outside of marriage is wrong—which it tries to pass off as universally held truths. In an effort to convince students that these opinions are facts, the curriculum provides incomplete and biased information, promotes fear and shame, and undermines young people’s confidence in their own decision-making abilities. For example, students are asked which life decision—college, career, or marriage—will have the most impact on their life. The answer is marriage because “College is for a few years, and you may have a number of careers. But marriage is for life.”8
SIECUS found that Navigator relies on messages of fear and shame, inaccurate and misleading information, and biased views of marriage, sexual orientation, and pregnancy options. Navigator fails to provide important information on sexual health and the format and underlying biases of the curriculum dictate specific values and discourage critical thinking. For example, the authors explain, “Navigator does not promote the use of contraceptives for teens. No contraceptive device is guaranteed to prevent pregnancy. Besides, students who do not exercise self-control to remain abstinent are not likely to exercise self-control in the use of a contraceptive device.”9
Similarly, SIECUS found Why kNOw offers limited information about important topics in human sexuality such as puberty, anatomy, and human reproduction, and no information about sexual orientation and gender identity. The information that is included is outdated, inaccurate, and misleading. In addition, Why kNOw relies on negative messages, distorts information, and presents biased views on gender, marriage, family structure, sexual orientation, and pregnancy options. For example, the curriculum tells students that the tradition of lifting the veil shows that “the groom [is] the only man allowed to uncover the bride,” and demonstrates “her respect for him by illustrating that she [has] not allowed any other man to lay claim to her.”10
SIECUS found that Worth the Wait covers some important topics related to sexuality such as puberty, anatomy, and sexual abuse, and that the curriculum is based on reliable sources of data. Despite these strengths, Worth the Wait relies on messages of fear, discourages contraceptive use, and promotes biased views of gender, marriage, and pregnancy options. For example, the curriculum explains, “teenage sexual activity can create a multitude of medical, legal, and economic problems not only for the individuals having sex but for society as a whole.”11
In addition to the curricula reviews above, SIECUS examined the commercially available videotape of Mike Long’s presentation, Everyone’s Not Doing IT. In his presentation to students, Mike Long, a self-described pioneer in the abstinence movement lectures, preaches, and tells young people in no uncertain terms that premarital sex is morally wrong, that they are incapable of making decisions for themselves, and that everyone should aspire to marry and raise children in a “traditional” family setting. In a style that falls somewhere between that of an infomercial spokesperson and a televangelist, Long relays messages of fear and shame and provides medically inaccurate information. For example, he tells his audience, “You’ll never know whom you want to marry… Maybe that man or woman will regard virginity as an important indicator of character, and maybe, if you’ve been sexually active, he or she will find out. (If you’ve been pregnant or had a sexually transmitted disease, your chances of marrying such a person may be even slimmer.)”12
See the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) section for more information on other abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula used in Iowa including the Choosing the Best, No Apologies: The Truth About Life, Love, and Sex, and A.C. Green’s Game Plan.
The University of Iowa was granted Title V funds to conduct an evaluation of six sub-grantees in the state. The evaluation, completed between 2006 and 2007, and used pre- and post- tests to measure students’ change in attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs. The study did not measure change in behavior or sexual health outcomes.
The pre- and post- test questions used in the evaluation varied greatly between sub-grantees. Most participants were asked, “I understand more about the benefits of waiting until marriage to have sex” and “I am more sure that from now on I will say no to sex until I get married.” While some of the measures changed significantly between pre- and post- tests, in five of the programs evaluated, students did not plan to abstain from sex in the future (at significant levels).
Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding Status
In February 2008, Iowa Governor Chet Culver decided no longer to participate in the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program. His press secretary explained that the strict restrictions around the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program led to the decision.13 The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program relies on an eight-point federal definition of “abstinence education.” All programs that receive abstinence-only-until-marriage funds must adhere to this definition which specifies, in part, that “a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of all human sexual activity” and that “sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.” The decision goes into effect for Fiscal Year 2009.
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There are two CBAE grantees in Iowa: Sexual Health Education, Inc., doing business as Equipping Youth, and Bethany Christian Services. There are no AFLA grantees in Iowa.
Equipping Youth conducts character education, mentoring programs, and the “Powerful Choices” abstinence-only-until-marriage program for young people and their families. Powerful Choices is a ten-lesson program that includes teacher training, curricula, and supplies, and incorporates special presentations from members of the Abstinence Education Initiative (AEI) Coalition.14 Equipping Youth is the fiscal agent and facilitator of the AEI Coalition, which is comprised of non-profit agencies and the Prairie Schools public school district in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.15 According to the AEI Coalition’s website, “Prairie Schools is providing the AEI Coalition with a unique opportunity to implement an abstinence-until-marriage-program in a school that does not teach forms of sex education that include contraceptive use.”16 In addition, this project serves as a model site for other school districts in Iowa who are interested in adding an abstinence-only-until-marriage program.
Equipping Youth uses a number of curricula including Powerful Choices, Choosing the Best, and Creating Positive Relationships. SIECUS reviewed two of the curricula produced by Choosing the Best, Inc.—Choosing the Best LIFE (for high school students) and Choosing the Best PATH (for middle school students). These reviews found that the curricula name numerous negative consequences of premarital sexuality activity and suggest that teens should feel guilty, embarrassed, and ashamed of sexual behavior. For example, Choosing the Best LIFE states that, “Relationships often lower the self-respect of both partners—one feeling used, the other feeling like the user. Emotional pain can cause a downward spiral leading to intense feelings of lack of worthlessness.” Choosing the Best PATH says, “Sexual activity also can lead to the trashing of a person’s reputation, resulting in the loss of friends.”17
The AEI Coalition offers examples of interactive media for the lessons, including the “Ride the Rollercoaster” game.18 Ride the Rollercoaster presents numerous stories about two young people, Jack and Jill, who engage in various sexual activities. After each activity, a box pops up showing a cartoon rollercoaster and “the STD meter,” which “illustrates the increased risk you take at each level of affection you share with your partner.” According to the meter, one activity, “long kissing,” includes the risks of “HPV (Genital Warts), Herpes 2, and Syphilis.” Another activity, “touching over clothes,” translates to “more risks than long kissing because it leads to touching under clothes.” “Touching under clothes” invites the risks of “HPV (Genital Warts), Herpes 2, Syphilis, and Public Lice.” The activity “sexual intercourse” is described as “It’s all downhill from here. Risks: Take your pick of over 25 STDs and even pregnancy.”19
Bethany Christian Services, another CBAE grantee, is a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) that provides adoption services. Crisis pregnancy centers typically advertise as providing medical services and then use anti-abortion propaganda, misinformation, and fear and shame tactics to dissuade women facing unintended pregnancy from exercising their right to choose.
Through its abstinence-only-until-marriage grant, the organization offers curricula implementation, media campaigns, marketing strategies, a resource library, and abstinence materials. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Abstinence Education Newsletter, Bethany Christian Services has provided abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for two decades.20
In middle schools, Bethany Christian Services uses A.C. Green’s Game Plan, a popular abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum produced by Project Reality.21 SIECUS reviewed Game Plan and found that in order to convince high school students to remain abstinent until marriage, the curriculumrelies on messages of fear and shame, inaccurate and misleading information, and biased views of marriage, sexual orientation, and family structure. In addition, Game Plan fails to provide important information on sexual health including how students can seek testing and treatment if they suspect they may have an STD. Finally, the format and underlying biases of the curriculum do not allow for cultural, community, and individual values, and discourage critical thinking and discussions of alternate points of view in the classroom. For example, Game Plan states that, “Even if you’ve been sexually active, it’s never too late to say no. You can’t go back, but you can go forward. You might feel guilty or untrustworthy, but you can start over again.”22
In high schools, Bethany offers No Apologies…The Truth about Life, Love and Sex, a curriculum created by the national far right organization, Focus on the Family. Bethany also invited national abstinence-only-until-marriage presenter Pam Stenzel to speak at student assemblies in northwest Iowa. Pam Stenzel is a well-known abstinence-only-until-marriage speaker. SIECUS reviewed her video “Sex Still Has a Price Tag,” in which Stenzel delivers two 40-plus-minute monologues to a studio audience of high school students. She uses a preacher’s cadence and often yells at her audience in attempts to emphasize her points. Stenzel focuses on unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other negative outcomes of sex such as emotional pain and the inability to bond. Her presentation relies on fear, promotes shame, and mandates decisions for young people. For example, Stenzel tells her audience, “If you forget everything else I told you today, and you can only remember one thing, this is what I want you to hear. If you have sex outside of one permanent monogamous—and monogamy does not mean one at a time—that means one partner who has only been with you—if you have sex outside of that context, you will pay.”23
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2007
Adolescent Health Contact24
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