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When the National Abstinence Education Association gathered on Capitol Hill last month for their annual lobby day, the sense of fear in the room was palpable. Independent studies had definitively shown that abstinence-only programs are a failure, and their many millions of federal tax dollars were in serious jeopardy.

Faced with these facts, the NAEA and its allies discussed a new strategy to continue its federal funding stream. Instead of abandoning their demonization of condoms and adherence to social conservative ideology over sound science, they would simply rebrand themselves as curriculum that “wasn’t just about abstinence”, but was all about “holistic approaches” to “healthy lifestyle choices”.

In other words, if they just put a new wrapper on their old product, they might fool the federal government into continuing to give them millions of dollars.

Earlier this month in Chattanooga, TN, we may have seen the first clear sign that this rebranding has begun.
WhyKnow, one of the most well-known and well-funded abstinence-only programs in the country, held a large public ceremony to celebrate their sudden change of name. With the assistance of the PR company Maycreate Idea Group, WhyKnow is now known as OnPoint, and they have “broadened its focus and taken on a whole new look”.

Why the big change? Well, read this and see if it sounds familiar:

As to the new direction for the group, in the tech and media-driven world of teenagers, smart decision-making means making smart choices. It’s all about providing teens with the tools and skills needed to successfully navigate life.

The idea,” said Lesley Scearce, executive director of OnPoint, “is to get teens involved in new, positive directions that lead to a healthier, more fulfilling life. Without a re-naming, re-branding and re-positioning, this new direction wouldn’t have been possible. And Maycreate Idea Group was the creative force behind it all.

The event was highlighted with a look at the new name, logo and promotional materials created by Maycreate. The result is new graphics, new colors, a new message and a new tag line—“Direction for life.”

Yes, instead of touting abstinence, it is all about teaching “healthy decision-making skills”. Same garbage, different packaging.

And here is the “garbage”, so to speak, within WhyKnow’s old curriculum, according to SEICUS:

Like many other abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, Why kNOw? offers limited information about important topics in human sexuality such as puberty, anatomy, and human reproduction, and no information about sexual orientation or gender identity. Why kNOw? does contain some detailed information about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS, however, much of this information is outdated, inaccurate, and misleading. In addition, the curriculum presents information about condoms which is focused on exaggerated failure rates, and contains almost no information about other forms of contraception.

Instead, Why kNOw? relies on negative messages, distorts information, and presents biased views on gender, marriage, family structure, sexual orientation, and pregnancy options. In addition, Why kNOw? teaches a “traditionalism” that is patently religious in nature, and even goes so far as to teach Bible stories as history. These biased and inaccurate messages are clearly out of touch with the health needs of America ‘s youth.

Is the actually cirriculum going to change along with their name, logo, and talking points? Color me skeptical, for one.

The reason that this rebranding matters so much is that WhyKnow was not just one large abstinence-only program. It is one of the largest providers of abstinence-only curricula to public schools all over the country. As WhyKnow rebrands itself and its curricula, it will provide abstinence-only programs all over the country the opportunity to rebrand themselves as something other than the social conservative junk-science peddlers that they are.

This is why it is so important that we let our government officials know about this rebranding rouse of abstinence-only organizations. President Obama is currently finalizing his 2010 budget, and he will decide whether we continue to fund these programs that have already milked $1.5 billion from our federal government, with nothing to show for it. We must not let Obama and Congress fall for this silly rebranding scheme.

Please send President Obama this letter urging him to zero out abstinence-only programs.

And let your Congressperson know that whatever Obama ultimately decides on, we can’t afford to continue funding these programs.

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