Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sex Ed: Guiding teenagers

Posted at the Seattle PI.
OK, so scientifically speaking, abstinence-only education isn't wrong -- no sex = no pregnancy.

Unfortunately, human behavior doesn't always follow such lines of thought, which is why those programs -- for which President Bush requested a $28 million boost in fiscal year 2008, bringing the total spending to $204 million for that year -- don't cut it when it comes to effectively preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, especially among teens.

Meanwhile, there are no federal funds dedicated to comprehensive, medically sound sex-ed programs in our schools. Such programs could prevent some of the 750,000 teen pregnancies Planned Parenthood Federation of America anticipates in 2007. The organization also estimates that 4 million U.S. teens will contract some STD or another.

The Responsible Education About Life Act would help remedy that, providing a $208 million-per-year federal grant to the Department of Health and Human Services for age-appropriate, medically accurate, non-religious sex education programs that would include the value of abstinence and the role of drugs and alcohol in sexual behavior.

We hope Congress won't drop the ball on the REAL Act, sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Christopher Shays, R-Conn.

In Washington state, our Senate passed a measure earlier this month mandating that medically accurate sex education be taught in public schools that choose to teach sex ed. Abstinence can still be part of the lesson, just not the whole lesson. We're now waiting for the House to do right by teens and approve the measure.

There is no evidence that "age-appropriate, medically accurate, non-religious sex education programs" would work any better than "abstinence-only". It's ignorant and arrogant for the government to think that they and the methods that they teach are solely responsible for the rise or fall of teen pregnancy and STDs. This is absolutely NOT the case. The most prominent indicator of the level teen pregnancies and STDs is the condition of the home and the relationship with parents, and how well moral values are instilled in children at the earliest ages. Of course, there are no guarantees as to how your children will turn out, but statistically, when parents taught that premarital sex was both dangerous AND WRONG, there was much less instance of teen pregnancies and STDs. To remove the moral implications from the teaching is disastrous to society.

The problem with "abstinence-only" education is that it's introduction to government schools caused an apathy in American homes, so that parents were giving up this responsibility to the school system. The school system focused on the clinical aspects of abstinence-only while avoiding the moral aspects. Therefore, the abstinence-only programs in school are indirectly responsible for increased teen pregnancy and STDs, but not for the reasons most commonly stated. Not because it "doesn't work", but because it lacks the moral aspect. There is no more social stigma associated with teen pregnancy, and there is actually now a social stigma in teenage peer groups with virginity. There is also an enormous amount of misinformation regarding where teens draw the line between what is and what isn't sex.

The REAL Act, (Responsible Education About Life) is currently being re-introduced as House Bill H.R. 1653. The text isn't in yet, but I will be following this bill as closely as I can. I expect that this bill, if it were to become law, would further the decline of society by further stressing the clinical aspect of premarital sex while ignoring the moral and emotional implications. The goal of the REAL Act is to mitigate the circumstances of promiscuity rather than mitigate the behavior. If you think that things are bad now, wait until 20 years after this bill has been passed. I predict that teen abortions and STDs will sky rocket as teens naively attempt to practice what they're taught under the mandate of this program.

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