HEALTH

Abstinence-Only Champion Appointed To Health And Human Services

Sex educators are outraged about Valerie Huber, a staunch foe of teaching teens about condoms

HEALTH
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Jun 07, 2017 at 3:56 PM ET

The Trump administration has reportedly appointed leading abstinence-only advocate Valerie Huber to a position in the Department of Health and Human Services — and sex educators are outraged. Huber is known for opposing evidence-based comprehensive sex ed programs that teach about condoms and other birth control methods.

“This appointment shows just how little this Administration cares for young people’s health and wellbeing in this country,” said Chitra Panjabi, president and CEO of Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), in a press release.

Huber will serve as chief of staff to the assistant secretary for health at HHS, which funds programs around sexual education. She is the long-time president and CEO of Ascend, formerly known as the National Abstinence Education Association, which has claimed, contrary to mountains of evidence, that comprehensive sex-ed doesn’t work. Before that, she oversaw Ohio’s abstinence-only programs — and, while she did, a report found that these curricula contained false information about contraceptives and abortion, and misrepresented “religious convictions as scientific fact.”

Huber has also called the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, an Obama-era, evidence-based initiative, “a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars” and publicly campaigned against it. Now, as Panjabi points out, she will be in a position to influence the program. “The fox is guarding the hen house,” she said.

The appointment, following Trump’s proposal to spend $160 million on abstinence-only education, which has time and again been proven to be ineffective, is no big surprise. But it’s nonetheless sending waves throughout the community of organizations dedicated to comprehensive sex ed.

“We are appalled by this appointment,” said Debra Hauser, president of sex-ed nonprofit Advocates For Youth. “America’s young people deserve better.” She pointed out that abstinence-only programs like those supported by Huber “dehumanize students, sometimes comparing sexually active students to ‘chewed gum.'” She added, “Valerie Huber has a long history of defending programs that misrepresent the facts and mislead young people across the country.”

Nicole Cushman, executive director of Answer, a national sex ed organization, says she is “deeply disturbed” by the move and sees it as the Trump administration doubling down “on its efforts to disregard science in favor of ideology.” She added, “In this case, our young people will pay the price.”

Correction: This article originally cited incorrect news reports claiming Trump has set aside $277 million for abstinence-only education. He has instead earmarked $160 million.