mark hertsgaard

Independent Journalist & Author


American Virgins


Hello, I’m Mark Hertsgaard in San Francisco, and welcome to Spotlight, Link
TV’s investigative news show, featuring documentaries from around the
world, reporting stories usually missed by American television.


This week our spotlight is on the abstinence debate in the United

Many Christian conservatives, including President Bush, believe
American adolescents should hear a simple, consistent message: only
abstinence offers true protection against pregnancy and sexually
transmitted diseases. Schools should teach kids to just say “No” to sex,
not teach them how to have it safely.

It’s a controversial message, but it’s now government policy. The
documentary you’re about to see explores the debate by going inside an
abstinence campaign in Pennsylvania that’s headed by a Christian preacher
who believes the end of the world is imminent and kids have to give Jesus
the right answer to get into heaven.

We’ll be back afterwards with an update. For now, from the BBC in
Britain, here is “American Virgins,” on Link TV, your connection to the


Welcome back. You’re watching “Spotlight” on Link TV. I’m Mark

“The Silver Ring Thing” is unabashedly Christian, which has led to
legal troubles for the group and its supporters in the Bush administration.
In May 2005 the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Department of
Health and Human Services for funding the Silver Ring Thing. The ACLU
argues that using taxpayer money to “promote religious content and
indoctrination” violates the separation of church and state.

Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of California released
a study of abstinence-only school curricula.
The study found that eleven out of thirteen curricula contained false or
misleading information, such as the claim that it’s not known whether
condoms prevent the spread of HIV.

Meanwhile, analysts have found no evidence that abstinence programs keep
kids from having sex. Studies by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen
Pregnancy found that abstinence programs affected only kids’ stated
attitudes about sex, not their actual behavior. In response, the Bush
administration ordered the Center for Disease Control to measure only what
kids say about abstinence, not what they do.

Most medical authorities support a very different approach. Call it
“abstinence plus”. The American Medical Association, the American Academy
of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association all favor
comprehensive sex education that encourages abstinence but also tells kids
how to protect themselves if they do have sex.

If you want to find out more about these issues, check out the
resources listed at the end of this program. You can also find those
resources at our website,

Following those listings you’ll see a clip from next week’s program.
Until then, this is Mark Hertsgaard in San Francisco for Link TV:
Spotlight. Thank you for joining us.



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About Mark

Independent journalist Mark Hertsgaard is the author of seven books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden; HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth; and A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. He has reported from twenty-five countries about politics, culture and the environment for leading outlets, including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Time, Mother Jones, NPR, the BBC and The Nation, where is the environment correspondent. He lives in San Francisco.