Abstaining From Science
November 8, 2005 - 11:49am ET
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It was a big weekend for abstinence-only education. The unproven and unscientifically supported education method got its own first-ever national conference—sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services , no less!—in
Some voices in favor of scientifically accurate sex ed programs were louder, though. A group of protesters stormed the stage during the conference, waving signs that said "Abstinence doesn't work." The same group showed up at the Family Research Council's D.C. headquarters yesterday, dressed as condoms and arguing against abstinence-only programs. FRC President Tony Perkins dismissed the group as "radicals." That's right, Tony. You've got to be a far-out radical to argue that condoms prevent disease.
TomPaine.com readers may think I sound like a broken record on the topic of abstinence-only education. And I do. But the fact remains that it's simply irresponsible to refuse to teach teenagers medically accurate facts about preventing sexually transmitted diseases and avoiding unwanted pregnancy. Abstinence-only programs, especially those that encourage teens to take a "virginity pledge," are no more effective then comprehensive sex education programs in preventing early sexual activity, and they actually increase the chances that a teen will not use protection if they do have sex.
One small light at the end of this frustratingly long tunnel may be Sen. Frank Lautenberg's amendment that would require federally funded abstinence-only programs to be medically accurate. That means that if we can't teach teenagers that condoms prevent disease, at least they won't receive misleading information that, for example, incorrectly inflates condom failure rates or reinforces antiquated gender stereotypes about sex. The Senate has already approved the amendment; the House votes on Nov. 9. That gives you 24 hours to contact your representative and urge them to support the amendment. You know—something radical.
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