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Hullabaloo


Monday, February 04, 2013

 
Another good reason why religion should remain in its own sphere

by digby

Remember when everyone insisted that "abstinence only" was the only acceptable sex "education" in God Bless America? And remember how that turned out?

[B]y releasing the latest federal report on abstinence-only, Impacts for Title V. Section 510, Abstinence Education Programs: Final Report, from Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. late on a Friday, that is exactly what the Bushies are doing.

“After 10 years and $1.5 billion in public funds these failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs will go down as an ideological boondoggle of historic proportions,” said James Wagoner, President of Advocates for Youth.

“The tragedy is not simply the waste of taxpayer dollars, it is the damage done to the young people who have been on the receiving end of distorted, inaccurate information about condoms and birth control. We have been promoting ignorance in the era of AIDS, and that’s not just bad public health policy, its bad ethics”.

“This report should serve as the final verdict on the failure of the abstinence-only industry in this country,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS). “It shows, once again, that these programs fail miserably in actually helping young people behave more responsibly when it comes to their sexuality,” Smith continued.

In 1996, the federal government attached a provision to the welfare reform law establishing a federal program for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. This program, Section 510(b) of Title V of the Social Security Act, dedicated $50 million per year to be distributed among states that choose to participate. States accepting the funds are required to match every four federal dollars with three state-raised dollars (for a total of $87.5 million annually, and $787.5 million for the eight years from fiscal year 1998 through 2006). Programs that receive the Title V funding are prohibited from discussing methods of contraception, including condoms, except in the context of failure rates.

The abstinence only folks were very upset:

On a call yesterday organized by the Abstinence Clearinghouse, abstinence-only proponents were clearly rocked by the potentially ruinous news in the report. High profile abstinence-only advocate, Robert Rector, led the preemptive damage-control planning. He outlined several strategies the abstinence-only movement could use to rationalize the findings in the report saying, “The other spin I think is very important is not [program] effectiveness, but rather the values that are being taught,” Rector said. Whether or not these programs work is a “bogus issue,” Rector continued.

Right. It was never about teen pregnancy. It was about sex. As usual. In fact, they were happy to have teens get pregnant because childbirth is the appropriate punishment for the little you-know-whats.

The good news is that some school districts learned from that ridiculous experiment:

The teen pregnancy rate in New York City dropped by 27 percent over the last decade, a statistic that city officials credit to teen’s expanded access to contraception.

The city’s health commissioner, Tom Farley, told the New York Daily News that the data shows two concurrent trends. More adolescents are choosing to use birth control, and more of them are also delaying sexual intercourse. That’s partly because New York is one of the 21 states that allows all minors to have access to contraceptive services — and two years ago, the public school system began a pilot program to provide Plan B to public school students in districts with high rates of unintended pregnancy:

The city has worked to make it easier for kids to get birth control — giving out condoms at schools and making birth control and the morning-after pill available in some school clinics, a sometimes controversial move.

Farley said the numbers show that strategy is working.

“It shows that when you make condoms and contraception available to teens, they don’t increase their likelihood of being sexually active. But they get the message that sex is risky,” he said. [...]

Again ... duh. Young people have sex is hardly novel. But our modern society has decided that people shouldn't be raising children at 14 and 15 anymore and we have the technology to make sure they don't. Teenagers will always do the deed. Biology will out a good part of the time. But it doesn't have to sentence them to parenthood before they are ready. Anyone with a lick of common sense and decency would want them to have every tool at their disposal to prevent that.

Unfortunately, there still remain unacceptably high rates of teenage pregnancy among racial and ethnic minorities. But their rate of unplanned pregnancy is lowering as well. It's having an impact.

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