Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Beauty Of Truth

Abstinence works. Abstinence-only education doesn't.

While Bristol has her folks as backup, I can't help thinking of all the other 17-year-olds - teens as sexually active as Bristol obviously is - who deserve to learn about all methods of birth control, not just abstinence. Because if and when they find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy, they won't have the safety net of a financially comfortable and emotionally supportive family beneath them.

Give the article a full read.

And, for good measure, check out the Guttmacher study:
The good news is that comprehensive sex education can assist young people in the transitions inherent in adolescence by helping them delay and prepare. According to Douglas Kirby, a senior research scientist at ETR Associates who has analyzed hundreds of program evaluations, there is strong evidence that comprehensive sex education can effectively delay sex among young people, even as it increases condom and overall contraceptive use among sexually active youth. This is in sharp contrast to what can be said about the effectiveness of abstinence-only education. A recent, congressionally mandated evaluation of federally funded abstinence-only programs by Mathematica Policy Research—conducted over nine years at a cost of almost $8 million—found that these programs have no beneficial impact on young people's sexual behavior. As Kirby puts it, we can no longer say the jury is out on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs

(NDT missiles incoming in 3 . . .2 . . . 1 . . .)


North Dallas Thirty said...

Yes, please do give it a full read.

Especially this section.

The evaluation found that none of the programs had a statistically significant beneficial impact on young people's sexual behavior. In fact, I was surprised by just how flat the results were. Teens who participated in the programs were no more likely to abstain than those who did not. Those who reported having had sex did so at the same age and had similar numbers of sexual partners. The only good piece of news was that youth who participated in the programs were no less likely to use condoms or other forms of contraception.

In short, abstinence-only education does no harm.

Furthermore, even the Guttmacher Institute is forced to admit the following:

Most people would agree that teens, especially younger teens, should be encouraged to delay sexual activity. Sex among very young adolescents is frequently involuntary, at least to some degree: It may involve a partner who is substantially older, which may make it hard for such teens to resist their partner's approaches or to insist on using condoms or other contraceptive methods. Teens who have sex at a young age tend to have relatively unstable relationships and quickly acquire other sexual partners, which increases their risk of exposure to STIs. And young teenagers who get pregnant are rarely, if ever, in a position to support and raise a child.

Since society can agree that teenagers should not be having sex, that's what should be taught in schools.

North Dallas Thirty said...

Also, your first article brings up an excellent point; the Palins don't see abortion as necessary because they value their daughter, they accept her even when she makes mistakes, and they are willing to help and support her.

Apparently this is something with which the liberal columnist is completely unfamiliar -- and which she thinks is abnormal.

Tommy said...

I defended you over at the malcontent.

Jamie said...

I think the Palin's decision to support their daughter is admirable and never said anything to the contrary. But their continued espousal of abstinence only education is absurd. Forewarned is forearmed, and obviously their daughter engaged in premarital unsafe sex, and could have contracted a disease. Thankfully she did not--but not because of her abstinence only teachings.

That's the problem I have, and I've pointed it out before. Abstinence should be taught, but not abstinence only. As you yourself have said, people make mistakes. Why then would we not want to try and mitigate the harsh consequences of such mistakes by empowering young people with knowledge that can save them?

North Dallas Thirty said...

Why then would we not want to try and mitigate the harsh consequences of such mistakes by empowering young people with knowledge that can save them?

Because, Jamie, you go on the logic that teenagers who do not have the intelligence or emotional restraint to stop from having sex in the first place will then have sex responsibly. You are claiming that teenagers will follow instructions and act responsibly after you have just finished arguing that teenagers will not follow instructions and act responsibly.

If you want to teach your children to have sex as teenagers and how to do it, go right ahead. But unless there is something valid and good about teenage sex, the schools should not be teaching it or facilitating it, just as they do not teach or facilitate smoking and drinking.

John said...

While the federal government does require abstinence only sex education, I don't see any societal consensus on this issue. In fact, it remains extremely controversial.

First, the medical establishment has been very critical of abstinence only programs. The APA, AMA, and AAP have all come out against it. Even George W. Bush's own Surgeon Generals - David Satcher and Richard Carmona - have revolted against this rule. While Satcher was a holdover from the Clinton administration (who Bush decided to not fire for two years), Carmona is a registered Republican. In a 2007 congressional hearing, Carmona called abstinence only "politically motivated" and "ineffective."

And speaking of politics, 16 state DOEs have already decided they're not going to obey this law (by declining federal funding). Most of these states have come up with their own "comprehensive" sex education programs. The other 34 states are ostensibly compliant. However, even the majority of those allow individual school boards to decide whether they'll teach the federally approved "abstinence only" sex education or nothing at all.

This is in addition to the significant amount of abstinence related debate happening within NGOs and community organizations nationwide.

And while there's concern for protecting children from predators, the states seem to have trouble deciding just who qualifies as a "child" and what constitutes "predation." There are conflicting age of consent and child predator laws on the books. As I recall, a major court case was fought over this in 2005. Kansas law treated homosexual statutory rape significantly more harshly than heterosexual statutory rape. This discrepency was ultimately struck down by the Kansas Supreme Court as unconstitutional (citing Lawrence v Texas).

Consensus? Hardly.

Pat said...

Abstinence-only education is like teaching teens that they shouldn't drink, but fail to tell them that a person who drinks shouldn't drive. The mentality being that teens don't need to be told that, because they're not going to drink.

We do our teens a great disservice by failing to tell them 1) they should not have sex until they are adults, and 2) not give them all the information they need regarding preventing STDs and pregnancy.

One of the problems appears to be that those who decide what sex education should be have their own ugly agenda laced with it.

So we have those who are sexually irresponsible would not be willing to tell teens they should wait, and be responsible and mature when the right time does come along.

And on the other side we have some of the abstinence-only programs tell students that they should not have sex until they are married. Of course, we see what message they are telling gay teens (fake it or be celibate), many of whom are already being condemned by their families and peers for their sexual orientation. Besides the flaws with these programs, I obviously cannot endorse something that I, as someone who is responsible, would have no intention of following.

As for Bristol Palin, I don't know the whole story. I'm assuming that Sarah Palin had her daughter attend a school in which abstinence-only education was taught, and was also only taught that at home. Whether that's true or not, obviously something went wrong, because two things happened. She apparently had sex, even though she is not an adult, and she and her sexual partner (boyfriend?) either failed to use appropriate contraception or it failed them.

I applaud the way the Palin family is handling this matter, except for one thing. It's bad enough that Bristol and her sexual partner made the mistakes in choosing to have sex and to adequately protect themselves. But now the family wants to compound it by saying her intention is for them to get married.

If it's a mistake for two children to have sex (which I believe it is), then it's a much bigger mistake for these children to even consider marriage. It's bad enough to marry someone only because he is the father of your child. So we're telling teens that they are not mature enough to make a decision about sex, but somehow they are mature enough about the decision to marry?

At least with sex, it can happen spontaneously when two teens start letting things go to far. Marriage doesn't usually happen too spontaneously. So the decision for these two to marry is much worse and more easily preventable than the decision of these two to have sex.

I'm not saying that couples in this situation should never get married to each other. But at the very least, they should wait until they are both 18, and at that point, go through the process that most do in deciding whether or not they should get married to the partner in question.

John said...

Palin's position on this isn't so clear as you may think, Jamie, as this LA Times article reports:

In a widely quoted 2006 survey she answered during her gubernatorial campaign, Palin said she supported abstinence-until-marriage programs. But weeks later, she proclaimed herself "pro-contraception" and said condoms ought to be discussed in schools alongside abstinence.

"I'm pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues," she said during a debate in Juneau.