Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Palin's America Part II: The Abstinence-Only Disaster

Allow me one more political rant. I assure you, it's related to being a mom of two daughters, just as yesterday's was.

Today's "World View" on Chicago Public Radio took a revealing look at the failure of one of the Christian right's big policies: the abstinence-only sex education movement in the United States. You can listen to the program here.

According to an American pediatrician and a Swedish midwife interviewed on the program, teens have sex at the same median age in most countries: 17. So teens are having sex everywhere, and multiple well-designed studies now show that abstinence-only programs do not delay the onset of sexual activity.

But which kids are getting pregnant? Hint: It ain't the Swedish teens, who frequently use TWO forms of birth control simultaneously to make sure they stay safe. No wonder the American Academy of Pediatrics has rejected abstinence-only sex education, and more and more states are rejecting federal funds that try to force the teaching of these programs.

By the way, that AAP link also points out that one in four American teen girls has been infected with a sexually transmitted disease.

So. Seventeen-year-olds have sex everywhere. But only in places where they are not given the full information about protecting themselves and the means to do so do they suffer the most serious consequences: pregnancy and STDs.

Gosh, it's almost like this abstinence-only program being taught in schools was based on religious beliefs rather than being based on public health science.

If only the adults pushing the abstinence-only agenda saw conclusive proof that the program doesn't work, that "nice" families who are "like everyone else" were getting hit with unintended pregnancies due to normal teen "mistakes." Like maybe if it happened in one of their own suddenly high-profile families? Then maybe they'd put two and two together and realize that the abstinence-only push is hurting children?

Nope, I guess that wouldn't work. Maybe Sarah Palin has declared her own family off-limits even to her own decision-making processes.

But for the rest of us, I think it's an interesting warning of things to come: If we elect another extreme conservative Evangelical, we should expect more public health disasters when they impose more of their religious beliefs on the nation.

p.s. Tomorrow I PROMISE I'll return to your regularly scheduled Nutmeg and Pebbles cuteness. After all, I'll need to report on Nutmeg's rocky first full week of school.


Sara said...

OMG, so this totally doesn't relate to this particular post, but when I heard Sarah Palin wanted to ban the Harry Potter books, I completely lost it. And then I Googled images of Severus Snape and I started to feel better. Mmmmmmmmmmmm...

I may need to get out more.

Bert said...

The fact that she wanted to ban the dictionary should tell us all just how nuts she is. What the heck?

More related to this post... I just can't stand hypocrites.

Kori said...

I watched Monday's episode of "The View" last night (thank you, TiVO), and Elisabeth was talking about how successful abstinence programs are. Of course, she said something like "if you are protecting the minds, hearts, souls and/spirits of children, there is only one option: abstinence."

It is exactly this type of comment that makes me believe that those who back abstinence-only teaching will never be swayed by the statistics that you quoted, because they are measuring something completely different---the sanctity of the body, mind and soul. Even if children are more likely to get pregnant and/or STDs without education or access to contraception, the bigger threat is to their personhood. Because it is understood that we are all sinful, it isn't surprising that some kids "give in to temptation," using that worldview.

I must defend Elisabeth by noting that when Joy asked her point blank if she was for abstinence-only education, she said she goes back and forth on this, because "you want to tell kids not to drive recklessly, but if they do you want them to where a seatbelt." I'm guessing that she grapples with the statistics you noted.

Carrie said...

I hate it when I agree with Elisabeth! It just happened last week when she was arguing that it is inappropriate to ask whether Palin could handle the job with all those kids including a special needs baby. Of course it's inappropriate and sexist!

Sure, I understand what she's saying. I don't want my girls to have sex as teens. But the fact is that the A-O programs don't just fail to prevent pregnancies -- they fail to delay the onset of sex. I don't oppose the GOAL of the programs, I just oppose continuing to fund programs that don't work. Oh, and also -- I very much agreed with a quote from the pediatrician on world view yesterday: It is unethical to withhold lifesaving information from human beings. It's like the seat belt thing. What if we didn't tell kids that wearing a seat belt could save their lives?