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SIECUS in action:

In March, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a new website,, as a guide to help parents/caregivers discuss "issues about healthy choices, abstinence, sex and relationships" with their pre-teen and mid-teen children.

SIECUS and many of our colleagues were immediately concerned that this website presents fear-based, biased, and inaccurate information as fact and does not address the needs of many youth, including sexually active youth, youth who have been or are being sexually abused, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. SIECUS led over 200 other organizations by drafting and sending a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Leavitt, to express concern with We asked that the website be immediately taken down and that a formal review be launched of its content and techniques for communication and behavioral learning. In addition, we led a national online letter campaign, Families Are Speaking Out, housed at our Families Are Talking website ( where parents and other concerned adults have written nearly 1000 letters to Secretary Leavitt expressing their own concerns.

The Associated Press ran a story on this controversy highlighting the letter spearheaded by SIECUS which appeared in nearly 300 media outlets across the country, including the National Journal and The Washington Times.

Working with our partners on this critical project, we have had a significant victory: has changed its statement on sexual orientation. While the new language is not ideal, it is a drastic improvement from how it started and clearly demonstrates how calls and letters from our grassroots are making a difference. In addition, they have changed the pregnancy portion of the website which now fits with the medically accepted definition of pregnancy.

SIECUS' efforts and influence were so strong on this issue that we sparked a letter released by the Government Reform Office on behalf of Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) and the advocacy effort of over 200 organizations across the country who called for an investigation of the website. As a result of this pressure, language included in the Appropriations Committee's report, put forth by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), directs the Department of Health and Human Services to review The report noted that "it has come to the Committee's attention that an independent study reviewed ... [and] the study found numerous examples of inaccurate information. The Committee is aware that this website was designed by outside contractors, not by the Department's public health officials. The Committee directs the Department to review the findings of the study, undertake a review of the website by Departmental public health and scientific experts, and make any necessary changes to conform with scientific evidence." This is an enormous victory for adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
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Title Annotation:Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States
Publication:SIECUS Developments
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2005
Previous Article:SIECUS helps American and European youth learn and exchange advocacy strategies.
Next Article:Attack on SIECUS by the Heritage Foundation.

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