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South Carolina-Based Heritage Community Services Expanding their Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Program Domestically and Internationally

As part of a worrisome trend of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs expanding beyond their own state's borders, the South Carolina-based Heritage Community Services has formed affiliates in a number of states across the country and is promoting its curriculum internationally. Heritage Community Services provides a good example of the many abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that enjoy political favor and have clear links with the anti-choice movement.

History

Heritage Community Services was formed in 1995 by Anne Badgley, who remains the President and CEO. Badgley formed the group as an adjunct to the Lowcountry Crisis Pregnancy Center which she founded in 1986 and continues to run. (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.)

While the two groups have since become separate non-profits, they remain closely linked, sharing the same office as well as some staff members. In addition, Badgley has close ties with other crisis pregnancy centers and serves on the National CareNet Centers for Tomorrow Advisory Board. According to its website, CareNet is a " Christian ministry assisting and promoting the evangelistic, pro-life work of pregnancy centers in North America ."1

Heritage Keepers Program

Heritage Keepers , Heritage Community Services' major initiative, purports to teach about character, values, and goals, and promote abstinence from "risky behavior." A SIECUS review of the materials, however, found that the program actually seeks to instill fear and shame in young people, leaves out critical sexual health information, and presents biases and stereotypes as fact.

The materials rely on clearly biased questions such as "How do you think you would feel watching someone you love get AIDS and die?"2 and "Why is it likely that weak people would choose risky behaviors, like drugs, alcohol, sex outside of marriage, or violence?" to scare and shame young people into abstaining from sex.3 The materials do not, however, include information on sexuality-related topics such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), condoms, contraception, sexual orientation, or pregnancy options.

In addition, the curriculum presents gender stereotypes as true and depicts non-traditional families as troubled. For example, it states "for a girl [practicing abstinence] may mean moving a boy's hand. For a boy it may mean resisting a lonely girl's need for affection."4 The curriculum also cites statistics such as "a divorced male is 3.4 times more likely to die any cause than a married male, and a divorced female is twice as likely to die from any cause than her married counterpart."5

Funding and Connections

The Heritage Keepers program originated in South Carolina and is taught in over 22 counties in the state. Over the years, it has seen a great deal of favoritism from the government in South Carolina . In a highly irregular use of Title V6 funding, South Carolina awarded the entire amount of its federal and state funding to Heritage Community Services without first engaging in a competitive bidding process. In 2004, Heritage Community Services was also the sole South Carolina recipient of Community Based Abstinence Education ( CBAE)7 money . In total, Heritage Community Services was a triple recipient of abstinence-only-until-marriage funding in 2004: $637,985 as a CBAE grantee, $635,000 as a Title V sub-grantee, and $600,000 directly from the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

Heritage Community Services not only enjoys preferential treatment by the government of South Carolina but also maintains close ties with the Bush Administration. According to an article in the Washington Monthly , "on his first presidential campaign stop in South Carolina, in June 1999, George W. Bush paid a visit to an abstinence-until-marriage workshop run by Heritage Community Services.If elected, he vowed to support the efforts of groups like Heritage with a boost in federal funding.." The article states that after the workshop, "Bush met with Heritage president Anne Badgley... A politically connected GOP activist, Badgley organized a meeting for Bush with local conservative leaders and put her Roladex at his disposal. She explained, 'I could see he was very sincere, and I worked hard to get him elected.'"8

The close connection between Heritage Community Services and the Bush Administration continued after Bush was elected. In July 2002, President Bush returned to South Carolina and met with Badgley and staff from Heritage Community Services and the Lowcountry Crisis Pregnancy Center to discuss Heritage's abstinence only-until-marriage programming.9 Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson was also present underscoring the Administration's view of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and marriage promotion programs as public health interventions.

The Department of Health and Human Services under Bush has taken additional opportunities to elevate Badgley's own profile in the abstinence-only-until-marriage industry. For example, Badgley has spoken at a number of state and local Title V, Section 510 training conferences and has served on the "HHS Maternal and Child Health Expert Panel that is charged with developing guidelines for abstinence education curricula."10

Heritage Community Services also works closely with other conservative organizations currently enjoying political and financial support from the Bush Administration. For example, the group held a national conference last summer with both the Institute for Youth Development (IYD) and the Medical Institute (MI) (also known as the Medical Institute for Sexual Health or MISH) acting as collaborating organizations. Both IYD and MI are favored by the Bush Administration for abstinence-only-until-marriage promotion and their key staff hold high-level advisory appointments within the Administration and receive substantial federal funding. At the conference, featured speakers included several Bush Administration officials, among them, Claude Allen, recently appointed chief domestic-policy adviser to President Bush, and Alma Golden, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs (DASPA).

Expansion

The vast amounts of tax-payer funding and political favoritism lavished upon Heritage Community Services, both at the state and federal level, has enabled its program to break out beyond the state's borders. According to Heritage Community Services, their materials are now being utilized in schools in Augusta, GA; Lexington, KY; Florida; Maine; Massachusetts; North Carolina; Rhode Island; and the Caribbean.11 A fact sheet from the organization explains that there are additional communities interested in setting up programs in: Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Africa.12

The programs that Heritage Community Services of South Carolina operates in Lexington, KY are funded by the Gerard Foundation, a Massachusetts-based foundation with a history of funding abstinence-only programs in several states.13 In Augusta , GA , Heritage's program is funded by a federal abstinence-only-until-marriage grant through the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA).14 The pilot program "targets predominantly African American middle and high school youth as well as their families and other community members"15 According to the Heritage website, this programming has expanded and will be in additional schools in the area.

Part of the group's expansion efforts has been to create off-site organizations in different states. For example, an organization formerly known as Character Counts became Heritage of Maine. Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have had significant difficulty getting a foothold in the state because Maine has a long and effective comprehensive family life program; between 1980 and 1996, the pregnancy rate for young women 15 to 19 years of age in Maine decreased by 33%.16 Recently the state has joined several others in not applying for Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage money, a strong statement that Maine does not support this approach.

Still, Heritage Community Services has now stepped in to usurp Maine 's own policies and promote abstinence-only programs through the work of Heritage of Maine. Heritage of Maine is the sole recipient of CBAE funding in that state and uses Heritage Community Service's materials in their programs which do not meet Maine 's comprehensive health education requirements. In fact, the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education, sent out a letter to every school superintendent in the state in August 2004 alerting them that using Heritage of Maine's curriculum would not meet the comprehensive health education requirements for the state.17 Nonetheless, according to its website, Heritage of Maine is teaching at several private schools in the state and even a public school, the Pownal Elementary School.18

Not surprisingly, Heritage of Maine has an anti-choice leaning. Several staff members are also involved in anti-choice organizations, including Dick Trayner, the former executive director of Maine Right to Life who is now Heritage of Maine's Development Director. In addition, the sole link provided on the "Just for Teens" section of Heritage of Maine's is www.gravityteen.org. This website is an affiliate of Vitae Caring Foundation, which has as its mission "to encourage a greater respect for human life and reduce the number of abortions by using mass media education for long term cultural change."19 The Gravity Teens website also includes graphic pictures of aborted fetuses and highly stigmatizing quotes about abortion such as one from a "former abortion worker" who states, "I have been there and I have seen these totally formed babies as early as 10 weeks with the leg missing or their head cut off. I have seen the little rib cages."20 The website also includes stories from "survivors of abortions that didn't work."21

Similarly, Heritage of Rhode Island is the sole recipient of CBAE funds in that state. This Heritage Keeper's affiliate received a grant of $400,260 to be used over the course of fiscal years 2004 to 2007. According to an online brochure, the group provides two programs: Right Time, Right Place, "a character-based family-life and sexuality program designed to fit into a school's already existing curriculum. the program promotes abstinence as the best choice for adolescents when it comes to sexual activity" and Heritage Keepers.22

According to tax records, one of the group's objectives for Fiscal Year 2004 is to "provide abstinence education to 2,000 students in Rhode Island 's public and private schools."23 That the program is available free may be an incentive for many cash-strapped schools and groups like Heritage of Rhode Island readily points that out. For example, its informational brochure states, "as a result of our funding through the US Department of Health and Human Service-Maternal and Child Health Bureau, we are able to offer our programs and services free of charge to Rhode Island's students, their schools, families and communities."24 The program has already started to cause controversy. There were reports that the Heritage program was being taught in Pawtucket , Rhode Island , but after parents complained the program was pulled from the schools.25

Implications

The expansion of groups like Heritage Community Services poses additional challenges for advocates of a comprehensive approach to sexuality education and health promotion. The millions of federal tax dollars flooding in to the abstinence-only-until-marriage industry has built an infrastructure and allowed program providers to become more sophisticated about linking to each other and sharing resources. By supporting fringe groups whose work has been criticized by local officials as being inconsistent with local standards and laws, groups like Heritage Community Services threaten policy advances made in states such as Maine and Rhode Island .

For more information, see the Heritage Community Services website at http://www.heritageservices.org/

For more information, see the Heritage of Maine website at

www.heritageofmaine.org

For more information, see the Heritage of Rhode Island website at

http://www.heritageri.org/

References

1 Our Mission , CareNet Website, accessed 20 April 2005, < http://www.care-net.org/aboutus/mission.html>.

2 Heritage Keepers (Student Manual, p. 97)

3 Ibid., 98.

4 Ibid., 107.

5 Ibid., 92.

6 The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding is given to states in block grants from the federal government. States that accept these funds must provide three state-raised dollars or the equivalent in services for every four federal dollars received and are then responsible for disseminating the funds to local groups.

7 Under this funding stream, originally known as Special Projects of Regional and National Significance-Community-Based Abstinence Education (SPRANS-CBAE), the federal government awards grants directly to state and local organizations.

8 Christina Larson, "Pork for Prudes: How conservatives score, while teaching kids not to," The Washington Monthly , September 2002, accessed 13 April 2005, http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/0209.larson.html/

9 Anne Bagdley Bio, Heritage Community Services Website, accessed via cache 20 April 2005, < www.heritageservices.org >.

10 Heritage Community Services Conference Brochure, "Family Formation: A New Generation of Leadership, July 13-14, 2004."

11 Heritage Community Services, Fact Sheet, acquired 2004.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.

14 AFLA is a federal funding stream originally designed to promote "chastity" that has expanded to fund a number of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

15 Office of Population Affairs, Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs, Abstinence Education Projects,

FY 2004/2005, accessed 13 April 2005, http://opa.osophs.dhhs.gov/titlexx/ae-project-descriptions-2005.txt

16 "Addressing Adolescent Pregnancy-Maine, 1980-1996," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 47.22 (5 June 1998): 433-438.

17 Informational Letter #17, Maine.gov, 9 August 2004, accessed 20 April 2005, < http://www.state.me.us/education/edletrs/2005/ilet/05ilet017.htm >.

18 Schedule of Events , Heritage of Maine, accessed 13 April 2005, < http://www.heritageofmaine.org/index_files/Page580.htm >.

19 Mission Statement , Vitae Caring Foundation, accessed 13 April 2005, < http://vitaecaringfoundation.org/ >

20 Abortion Images, Gravity Teens, accessed 13 April 2005, http://www.gravityteen.com/pregnancy/images.cfm and http://www.gravityteen.com/pregnancy/pregnancy.cfm

21 Alive and Kickin', Gravity Teens, accessed 13 April 2005, http://www.gravityteen.com/pregnancy/kickin.cfm

22 Heritage of Rhode Island Brochure, accessed 13 April 2005, http://www.heritageri.org/PDFS/Publication1.pdf

23 Guidestar search, www.guidestar.org

24 Heritage of Rhode Island Brochure, accessed 13 April 2005, http://www.heritageri.org/PDFS/Publication1.pdf

25 Personal communication with Rhode Island advocate, April 2005.

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