Abstinence-only sex-ed is indefensible
Lorie Johnson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 11:48:22 AM EST
As the public schools in this country fall more and more into lockstep with the government-funded and religiously motivated 'abstinence only' sexual education, what does this spell for the future health and education of our young people?
The US has the highest rate of teen pregnancy and STDs in the developed world. And those numbers are growing, in spite of government funded and faith-based abstinence only education in the schools. Here's what an article in today's San Francisco Chronicle had to say:
The Society for Adolescent Medicine sounded the alarm once again this month about the problems with government-funded abstinence-only programs in a comprehensive report. Not surprisingly, the findings aren't good.

A little more than a year ago, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Los Angeles, sounded this alarm in a study that found "false, misleading or distorted information" in the programs' teaching materials. Youth participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs, for instance, frequently received medically inaccurate or misleading information, often in direct contradiction to the findings of government scientists. They had been taught, for example, that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy."

Read that last paragraph again. This stuff is being taught in our public schools as fact.  Just the gay bashing phrase alone should warrent a red flag.

The society's new report, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, charges that "current federal abstinence-only-until-marriage policy is ethically problematic, as it excludes accurate information about contraception, misinforms by overemphasizing or misstating the risks of contraception and fails to require the use of scientifically accurate information while promoting approaches of questionable value." Furthermore, the report notes that the policy threatens "fundamental human rights to health, information and life."

Read that last sentence again: "Fundemental human rights to health, information, and life".

Essentially, in permitting the faith-based teachings of sexual education to permeate our schools, we are endangering the health and lives of our children.

The article continues:

Responding to the latest review of abstinence-only programs, James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, stated last week: "The report reads like an indictment. Abstinence-only is bad science, bad policy and a blatant violation of medical ethics and basic human rights. [emphasis mine] Enough is enough. The time has come for Congress to declare an immediate moratorium on federal funding for these programs. It is a national scandal that we have already spent over $1.1 billion of taxpayers' dollars on programs that don't work and that censor vital public health information for young people."

Federally funded abstinence-only education programs, which have enjoyed exceptional support and growth since 1996, have "educated" several million youth and are funded to the tune of $170 million a year, are not only grounded in bad science and subject to political whim, but they also don't offer what American parents say they want their kids to be taught.

A 2004 poll by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government found that 93 percent of Americans say sex education should be taught in schools and that, except for some geographical "pockets of controversy," there is little debate about what kind of sex education should be taught.

So, it's clear that the vast majority of Americans think that our kids need to know about sex, and how it ought to be taught. Why aren't we pushing back?

Here's what the federal government has listed as guidelines for abstinence only sex-ed:

The federal definition of an eligible abstinence-only education program is one that:

    * has as its exclusive purpose, teaching the social, physiological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity;
    * teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school age children;
    * teaches that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems;
    * teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity;
    * teaches that sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects;
    * teaches that bearing children out-of-wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child's parents, and society;
    * teaches young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increases vulnerability to sexual advances; and
    * teaches the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity.

And what fills the vacuum of ignorance about sex and sexuality in the absence of actual in-depth education? Here are some things that teens believe:

I can't get an STD if I have oral sex.
 I'm having my period, so I can't get pregnant.
If I have oral or anal sex, I'm still a virgin.

There has been a bit of exposure and push-back in the religious domination of teen-abstinence programs. The most recent example is the Silver Ring Thing, which was federally funded until the ACLU sued the government over its violation of the Establishment Clause.

The bottom line is that the lives and health of our young people -especially our young women- are in danger because of the deliberately misleading  things taught by government funded groups. We need to stand up for our kids and stand up to the enroachment of sexual ignorance that will harm them.  




Display:
The British press have watched all of this with growing alarm:

And here's the hub of the debate surrounding the abstinence movement in the USA: is it a legitimate response to a clear medical danger, or is it a moral crusade, driven by a specific interpretation of Christian values?

Whatever the answer, it is clear that the conservative Christian morality of President Bush is finding its way into legislation that promotes abstinence.

The Bush administration gave $120m to abstinence organisations last year.

For some Republican members of the administration, the abstinence issue is a clear case of Christian conscience. For others, it is a way of boosting their conservative credentials via an issue that remains less contentious than abortion.

Many of the abstinence organisations, like the Silver Ring Thing which received $700,000 in federal funding, are faith-based groups.

They can see it- why can't we?

by Lorie Johnson on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 11:53:22 AM EST


This means plenty more teenage pregnancies, and teenage single mothers, and children brought up in poverty.
It also means untrammeled spread of HIV infection, so we can all look forward to a huge raft of new AIDS cases in eight to ten years.

by MaryOGrady on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 02:17:03 PM EST

I need to learn how to do that...

by Lorie Johnson on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 04:40:02 PM EST
To graphically depict social and health data as a specific site draw for Talk To Action.

The national maps there are unique - psyche from Talk to Action posted a link to some national maps on health ( STD ) data, but these here have the very latest publicly available US and State government data, and breaking down rates of incidence by quintile gives much more useful data than a breakdown by, for example, thirds.

by Bruce Wilson on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 05:28:33 PM EST
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Graphics can convey information much more clearly than words/numbers.

Now...since there are at least two of us here who are foggy about how to post them, would you be kind enough to post a good link to fill us in on the process?

by Psyche on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 06:46:11 PM EST


Well I understand the need for accurate information in terms of sex education...but  perhaps I'm a little foggy on this subject...are you saying that sexual abstinence is bad or bad without accurate information, or lacking in understanding about human sexuality?

by akaladystar on Thu Jan 12, 2006 at 11:50:09 PM EST
[ source: Since 1991, rates of teenage pregnancy and birth have declined significantly in the United States. These are welcome trends. Yet, teens in the United States continue to suffer from the highest birth rate and one of the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the industrialized world. Debate over the best way to help teens avoid, or reduce, their sexual risk-taking behavior has polarized many youth-serving professionals. On one side are those that support comprehensive sex education--education that promotes abstinence but includes information about contraception and condoms to build young people's knowledge, attitudes and skills for when they do become sexually active. On the other side are those that favor abstinence-only-until-marriage--programs that promote "abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard"[1] of behavior. Proponents of abstinence-only programs believe that providing information about the health benefits of condoms or contraception contradicts their message of abstinence-only and undermines its impact. As such, abstinence-only programs provide no information about contraception beyond failure rates.

In 1996, Congress signed into law the Personal Responsibility & Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act, or "welfare reform." Attached was the provision, later set out in Section 510(b) of Title V of the Social Security Act, appropriating $250 million dollars over five years for state initiatives promoting sexual abstinence outside of marriage as the only acceptable standard of behavior for young people.

The quote above is from a detailed study of the effects of abstinence-only education.

Here's the conclusion:

Abstinence-only programs show little evidence of sustained (long-term) impact on attitudes and intentions. Worse, they show some negative impacts on youth's willingness to use contraception, including condoms, to prevent negative sexual health outcomes related to sexual intercourse. Importantly, only in one state did any program demonstrate short-term success in delaying the initiation of sex; none of these programs demonstrates evidence of long-term success in delaying sexual initiation among youth exposed to the programs or any evidence of success in reducing other sexual risk-taking behaviors among participants.

There is some preliminary evidence, also, showing rises in STD rates in at least on US state which has mandated abstinence-only education for about a decade now.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Jan 13, 2006 at 10:39:48 AM EST
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