Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bush's Abstinence-Only Crusade=1/4 Of Teenage Girls Get STDs

Last week the CDC released the results of its first-ever study of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in teenage girls. The results were deeply disturbing. One in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease. For all African-American teenage girls that number is double. The most common disease was the human papillomavirus. A virus linked to cervical cancer. The very same virus evangelicals and other "conservative" types don't want to vaccinate their daughters against for fear they'll go all mad promiscuous.

These uptight sexist bastards want our daughters and sons to know as little about sex and nothing about how to prevent STDs or unplanned pregnancy. From Bush on down, they preach abstinence as the only option. This unrealistic approach puts teenagers unnecessarily at risk. Plus there's absolutely no scientific evidence whatsoever that it works! Actually, the new CDC study provides additional strong anecdotal evidence that Bush's abstinence-only crusade is an abject failure.

We knew this already. Last November, a study* (PDF summary) by the non-partisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy concluded:

At present there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners (among teenagers).
These dangerous crackpots are not content to vehemently deny their children basic information to protect themselves. They cannot abide by any program that does. Without any supporting evidence, abstinence-only advocates claim such informative programs do more harm than good. Nothing could be further from the truth. Last November ABC News reported:
The study found that while abstinence-only efforts appear to have little positive impact, more comprehensive sex education programs were having "positive outcomes" including teenagers "delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use."

"Two-thirds of the 48 comprehensive programs that supported both abstinence and the use of condoms and contraceptives for sexually active teens had positive behavior effect," said the report.
Yes, the but the key word in "abstinence-only" is "only." More ABC News:
The study, conducted by Douglas Kirby, a senior research scientist at ETR Associates, also sought to debunk what the report called "myths propagated by abstinence-only advocates" including: that comprehensive sex education promotes promiscuity, hastens the initiative of sex or increases its frequency, and sends a confusing message to adolescents.

None of these was found to be accurate, Kirby wrote.

Instead, he wrote, such programs improved teens' knowledge about the risks and consequences of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and gave them greater "confidence in their ability to say 'no' to unwanted sex."

Even a 2007 study contracted by Bush's own HHS Department reached the same conclusions. Furthermore, it found under abstinence-only programs, teenagers are “less likely to report that condoms are usually effective at preventing STDs and more likely to report that condoms are never effective at preventing STDs.” Heckuva job Bushie!

He can't help himself. Not unlike the Iraq War, Bush has long committed himself to obliviously ride this train to its destination, a ruined bridge. Salon's 2004 Bush's Sex Fantasy tells how George Bush "lobbied for and promoted abstinence-only" early in his tenure as Texas Governor. The article also notes how "the teen pregnancy rate in Texas remains one of the highest in the country, despite the abstinence-only policies Bush pushed as governor."

You would think all of this would be enough to bring the abstinence-only gravy train to a grinding halt. Au contraire. The CDC report on STDs amongst teenage girls was met with a kind of rejoicing amongst hard-core evangelicals. Breaking Christian News had this breathless bulletin:
President Bush's 2009 budget proposal includes an important increase in funding for Community Based Abstinence Education (CBAE).

In light of a disturbing report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention which came out this week—and revealed that 1 in 4 teenage girls have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)—the President's urging for abstinence education is timely and obviously needed.

Linda Klepacki, sexual health analyst for Focus on the Family Action, stated, "With 3 million teen girls infected with STIs, safer sex in adolescents does not exist. For the current and future health of teens, we must teach them how to have strong relationships not based on sex."
Again the willful misperception and implication that there is no such thing as "safer sex""
and that any form of sex ed other than abstinence will lead teenagers to have weak relationships that are based only on sex.

Next up, we learn that George Bush's abstinence-only crusade has less to do with the sex than it does the money.


*This particular study was conducted by ETR Associates, a non-profit non-partisan organization "dedicated to developing and disseminating evidenced-based programs and best practices." ETR Associates markets teen-targeted pamphlets, posters, DVDs and other materials emphasizing health education and sexuality to both sides of this debate. Their publications cover everything from abstinence and safe sex to substance abuse and violence.