By Isabella Joslin, SIECUS Program Research Intern
Rita Diller, national director of the Stop Planned Parenthood Project at American Life League, recently urged North Carolina parents to oppose an evidence-based sexual health program taught in some communities in the Tarheel State. LaGrange, a community of 2,700 residents in Lenoir County in eastern North Carolina, is one of the locales where Making Proud Choices! has been taught.
Diller attacks Making Proud Choices!, a program she erroneously links to the publisher ETR Associates, a California-based non-profit which develops health promotion materials (and which traces its roots back to the education and training department of a Planned Parenthood affiliate based in Santa Cruz).
Making Proud Choices! is actually published and distributed by Select Media, not ETR. Diller’s objections seem to stem from misreading an ETR resource site listing Making Proud Choices as an evidence-based program. She warns, “Concerned citizens must work together to completely rid the schools of these ‘evidence-based’ programs that are nothing more than a tool for indoctrinating children in Planned Parenthood’s hedonistic philosophy.” Furthermore, she charges, the program “teaches toward four major ‘outcome expectancies or behavioral beliefs.’ Belief number 4 is described in the ETR overview as ‘Hedonistic Beliefs.’ Hedonistic philosophy places pleasure above everything else - as the greatest good.” By conflating several unrelated elements (Making Proud Choices! = ETR = Planned Parenthood = hedonism) Diller uses tactics typical of abstinence-only-until-marriage activists, in hopes that the confusion will lead communities such as LaGrange to reject more comprehensive sexuality education programs.
One of the goals of Making Proud Choices! is to increase the use of safer sex practices among adolescents who are already sexually active. Its effectiveness at meeting this goal is documented by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Pregnancy Prevention Intervention Implementation Report: “Adolescents participating in the intervention who were sexually experienced at baseline were significantly less likely to report having had unprotected sexual intercourse in the previous 3 months, and reported a lower frequency of unprotected sexual intercourse.” This evidence is irrelevant for Diller, who asks only, “Why are these children being exposed to graphic, hedonistic sexual instruction when a very small percentage of eighth graders will have engaged in sexual intercourse before the course begins?”
Diller’s attempt to sow controversy in communities such as LaGrange may encourage some abstinence-only activists in North Carolina to work on turning back the clock, but many school districts there are moving steadily ahead to comply with the Healthy Youth Act since it went into effect in 2010.Before the act became law, North Carolina schools were required to provide inaccurate and/or ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
Of the state’s 100 counties, Lenoir ranked 28th – that is, in the top third - for rates of adolescent pregnancy. Trenton Lovekamp, a health teacher at E.B. Frink Middle School in LaGrange, explained the rationale for programs such as Making Proud Choices!: “We just want to let kids know that they do have an option…To give kids the confidence to either say no they don’t want to do this, or if they do choose to have sexual relationships, they can have the confidence to be safe when they do it so that we don’t have unintended pregnancies or STDs.”
According to the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey of U.S. middle school students, up 20% of sixth graders, up to 33% of seventh graders, and up to 42% of eighth graders have engaged in sexual intercourse. Diller’s insistence that middle schoolers don’t need sexuality education because they are not sexually active is out of step with reality in North Carolina. Increasingly, local communities there have decided that students need more (and better) information.
 “Making Proud Choices! A Safer Sex Approach to Prevention of STDs, HIV and Teen Pregnancy,” ReCAPP: Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention,ETR Associates, accessed March 8, 2013, http://recapp.etr.org/recapp/index.cfm?fuseaction=pages.ebpDetail&PageID=128#framework.
 Rita Diller, “North Carolina Pushes Planned Parenthood Sex-Ed Program on Kids,” LifeNews.com, March 7, 2013, accessed March 8, 2013, http://www.lifenews.com/2013/03/07/north-carolina-pushes-planned-parenthood-sex-ed-program-on-kids/.
 “Making Proud Choices!” Pregnancy Prevention Intervention Implementation Report, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, May 31, 2012, accessed March 8, 2013, http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/oah-initiatives/tpp/programs/making_proud_choices.pdf.
 Diller, “North Carolina Pushes Planned Parenthood…”
 “Healthy Youth Act Facts,” Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, accessed March 20, 2013, http://www.appcnc.org/resources/for-schools/healthy-youth-act-faqs.
 Lindsey Fry, “Lenoir Co. Middle Schools Teaching New Sex Ed Course with Options Beyond Abstinence,” WITN.com, February 26, 2013, accessed March 15, 2013, http://www.witn.com/news/watercooler/headlines/Lenoir-Co-Middle-Schools-Teaching-New-Sex-Ed-Course-With-Options-Beyond-Abstinence-193448331.html.
 Michele J. Moore et al., “Sexual Behaviors of Middle School Students: 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results from 16 Locations,” Journal of School Health 83(1): 61-68, accessed March 15, 2013, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1746-1561.2012.00748.x/abstract.