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Preaching Abstinence Won't Help
2004.11.28 (Sun) 15:03
In a move that shocked nobody, President Bush's initiative to increase abstinence education for young people was funded at $131M in the omnibus spending bill passed last week. This represents an increase of $30M from last year, but still a good $100M less than Bush asked for. An AP article, found via ABC News, notes that the Bush Administration stands behind school programs that teach abstinence but not safe sex. Put simply, this is dangerous and wrong.
The argument in favor of teaching only abstinence is that abstinence is the only 100% effective way of avoiding pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Of course that is accurate, and of course, many people would prefer that their children abstain from sex rather than engaging in safe sex. But the problem is that the choice is not binary. If we add in another choice - that of unsafe and unprotected sex - it is safe to assume that rational people would opt for children having safe sex instead of unsafe sex. To ignore this other option is to endanger our children.
The argument then goes on to say that by teaching about safe sex in schools, we are promoting it, and making children aware of that option. If we teach them only abstinence, then they will abstain. This is absolute bullshit. We might as well say that if we don't tell children not to talk to strangers, then they will never encounter a stranger - it makes no sense. Children will learn about sex all by themselves, regardless of what is included in the lesson plan. What they may not learn about on their own are proper safe sex practices.
So, in this proposed system, children will learn about sex on their own, but will not learn about safe sex practices. What does this mean? It means that the number of children having sex will likely not decline, but the number of children practicing unsafe sex will rise. From the article:
Ten state evaluations, compiled by a group that opposes abstinence-only education, showed little change in teens' behavior since the start of abstinence programs in 1997.
Surveys indicate that roughly 50 percent of teens say they have sex before they leave high school. While the nation's teenage pregnancy rate is declining, young people 15 to 24 account for about half the new cases of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States each year.
Just as any reasonable person would expect, this looks like young people are having a good bit of unsafe sex. What about the decline in teenage pregnancies? Since it is coupled with a high rate of teenage sexually transmitted diseases and no visible decline in teenage sexual activity, it might be reasonable to draw a correlation to a general decline in pregnancy rates across all age groups (as seen by the increasing number of couples who undergo fertility treatments these days in order to conceive). It is important to note that this is an early study which was conducted by opponents of abstinence-only programs, and that a more definitive study is due out in 2006.
For advocates of abstinence-only programs then, at best, the studies are inconclusive as of yet, and at worst, they show that abstinence-only programs are not effective in decreasing sexual activity. Why then is this agenda being pushed, and what is the rationale?
Leslee Unruh, president of National Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls, S.D., said those state programs [which were studied and which showed little change in teens' behavior since the start of abstinence programs in 1997] are not true abstinence programs because they talk about delaying sexual activity, but not specifically waiting until marriage.
As far as we know, the only rationale for delaying sex until marriage is religious in nature. It could be said, non-religiously, to limit your partners and to not have casual sex, but as soon as marriage enters into the picture, it becomes clear that this is a religious agenda and is not based on reason, logic, or science. Who cares what the statistics say just as long as we all wait until we are married before God to have sex.
Anecdotally, we have heard a number of accounts from young children that have outright shocked us. It seems that as early as 12 or 13, some children are engaging in sexual activities. When we were 13, we were playing dodgeball and trying to buy nudie magazines, and we aren't all that old. So it seems that in a short period of time, the culture has changed significantly, and that children are having sex at ever younger ages. To us, this makes it even more critical to make children aware of safe sex at an early age so that if they do decide to engage in sexual activities, at least they can do so safely. We should make sex education more out in the open, and more honest, and we should target it to younger children, instead of embarrassedly ignoring reality.
Rather than living in a make-believe world where children are not having sex, why don't we instead try to arm them with the best information that science has to offer, and let them make their own choices? At the end of the day, they will make their own choices whether we want them to or not, and if all we've armed them with is a bible and a prayer, we haven't given them much of a fighting chance.
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[ Filed under: % Bush Watch % Government & Politics % Religion ]
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Ammon, 2006.12.28 (Thu) 22:23 [Link] »
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