SALT LAKE CITY — The American Red Cross abandoned its participation in a condom distribution program at the Winter Olympics following protests by pro-life groups and local donors, The Washington Post reported Feb. 21.
The local chapter of the Red Cross objected to what it called “the circus-like approach” of some volunteers with the Safe Games 2002 program, the Post reported. The program planned to distribute 250,000 free condoms during the Olympics.
While the Red Cross chapter said that pro-life protests against the condom giveaways were not a factor in the organization's decision, a leader of the condom handout initiative credited the protesters with triggering the Red Cross reversal. “It's my feeling Red Cross gave in to the pressure from protesters,” Luciano Colonna, one of the Safe Games founders, told the Post.
The so-called Safe Games initiative was independent of a condom distribution program for athletes sponsored by the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee, which prolifers also protested against.
In an internal memo obtained by the Post, the Red Cross said it was abandoning the program because “the coalition's tactics at the Games are not consistent with the Red Cross approach to HIV/AIDS prevention education.” Incidents cited by the Red Cross included one volunteer tossing a packet at a local community leader and another giving an unsolicited condom to a teen-age girl.
Planned Parenthood and the Utah AIDS Foundation also participated in the Safe Games initiative.
Several pro-life youth groups, including Rock For Life, Generation Life, Teens for Life and Survivors demonstrated in Salt Lake City against the program.
“Attempting to destroy a child's innocence with condom handouts cannot be tolerated,” said Bryan Kemper, director of Rock For Life, in a statement posted on Rock for Life's Web site, www.rockforlife.org. “I am so honored to have witnessed young people confronting the mayor and the American Red Cross condom pushers.”
Rock for Life charged that volunteers in American Red Cross uniforms were handing out condoms to youth under the age of 18, including some as young as 12.
Said Kemper, “We will not put up with condom pushers lying to and deceiving kids. Condoms do not protect you against the chlamydia or HPV viruses. Handing out condoms to kids is endorsing promiscuous sex. That's irresponsible, immoral and an outrage.”