Press Releases 2002

Anti-Contraception Group Tries to Place Irresponsible Anti-Condom Ads in District of Columbia Metro System

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Washington, DC—“It is shocking in its sheer irresponsibility that the American Life League—an organization claiming to defend life—should try to place advertising on the DC Metro that uses misleading and inaccurate statistics to discourage condom use as a way to prevent HIV transmission,” said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice.

“Bad advice is one thing, but bad advice that could result in death is a disgraceful way to behave in Washington, DC, which has the highest number of AIDS cases per 100,000 people in the United States,” continued Ms. Kissling.  “In a city where 1 in every 20 adults is infected with HIV and where new AIDS cases among women occur at 10 times the national average, it is practically criminal that any group would undermine AIDS prevention with misleading and inaccurate advertising.”

Frances Kissling spoke in response to an announcement by the American Life League that it intends to place advertisements in the DC Metro system that feature a skeleton with a red AIDS ribbon named as a “faithful condom user” side by side with the claim that condoms have a 16% failure rate.  This characterization of condom use in preventing HIV transmission is seriously misleading and runs contrary to every responsible health agency from UNAIDS to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which all agree that for sexually active people, condom use is essential in providing significant protection against the spread of HIV/AIDS.

By the selective use and citation of statistics, the American Life League ignores the fact that condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV infection.  According to the CDC, studies examining sexually active people at high risk for contracting HIV have found that “even with repeated sexual contact, 98-100 percent of those people who used latex condoms correctly and consistently did not become infected.” (Condom Effectiveness, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  On August 16, 2001, the United National Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization issued a statement that said that condoms were “the best defense” in preventing sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.  (“Condoms still best defense against sexually transmitted diseases,” UNAIDS, Aug. 16, 2001).

The proposal to place the ads by the anti-contraception group American Life League has yet to be approved by DC Metro authorities and comes in the wake of a global advertising campaign by Catholics for a Free Choice entitled Condoms4Life, which challenges the ban on condoms currently maintained by the Catholic hierarchy.

The American Life Leagues record for accuracy is poor.  Not only is their AIDS prevention data misleading and inaccurate in the proposed Metro campaign, but their proposed newspaper ad contains serious factual errors.  In an advertisement that the American Life League says will appear in The Washington Times on January 22, the group makes a number of accusations about Ms. Kissling and CFFC that are false.

The ad includes a list of organizations it says “are giving her [Kissling] money to help spread these scandalous lies [about condoms].”  In fact, a number of the organizations listed are not current donors to CFFC and have not given grants to CFFC for the past three to twenty years.  None of the foundations are currently funding the Condoms4Life campaign.

The ad states that Ms. Kissling is an excommunicated Catholic.  In fact, Ms. Kissling has never been sanctioned in any way by the Catholic church and neither her work beliefs, nor her actions, meet the criteria in church law for automatic excommunication.  Ms. Kissling has never been employed, nor worked in, any abortion or other kind of health facility in Mexico, as the ad claims.

The ad uses a photograph of Ms. Kissling owned by CFFC and for which the American Life League has not received permission to use.

CFFC also objects to the highly personal attack in this ad—the publication of a photograph of Ms. Kissling at a time when terrorism is a key threat in American life and after abortion advocates and providers have been murdered by anti-abortion extremists.

CFFC has placed this matter in the hands of legal counsel.

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Catholics for Choice shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women's well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their lives.