Monday, July 13, 2015

Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

School programs that teach abstinence until marriage are a waste of money.
Abstinence-Only Programs Do Not Impact Teen Sexual Behavior  In early November 2007, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy released Emerging Answers 2007, a report authored by Dr. Douglas Kirby, a leading sexual health researcher, discussing what programs work in preventing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. The report found strong evidence that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs do not have any impact on teen sexual behavior… Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs were ineffective in changing any of the behaviors that were examined including the rate of vaginal sex, number of sexual partners, and condom use. The rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among participants in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs were unaffected. Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States Fact Sheet.
But teen pregnancies have come down since 2010, with few startling revelations along the way. “Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that teenagers who received some type of comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant.” From an article by Amada Peterson Beadle entitled Teen Pregnancies Highest In States With Abstinence-Only Policies,, April 10, 2012.
For example, take the states with the highest and lowest teen pregnancy rates. Mississippi [which has the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation] does not require sex education in schools, but when it is taught, abstinence-only education is the state standard. New Mexico, which has the second highest teen birth rate, does not require sex ed and has no requirements on what should be included when it is taught. New Hampshire [which has the lowest teen birthrates], on the other hand, requires comprehensive sex education in schools that includes abstinence and information about condoms and contraception.” Beadle.
Okay, we got it. Sexual urges among teens are just too damned powerful to try and talk them into abstinence. What if you adopted the opposite approach? Equip them with actual and substantial birth control preventative measures, adding sex education to the mix? Hell, that would simply encourage pre-marital sex, and too many parents would simply freak out at the thought, particularly those with strong religious notions against pre-marital sex, particularly among their teenaged kids. But what if we tried that approach? Seriously? Isn’t it worth finding out if that program could reduce teen pregnancies?
Well, younger-folks-are-gonna-have-sex realists, guess no longer! “Over the past six years, Colorado has conducted one of the largest ever real-life experiments with long-acting birth control. If teenagers and poor women were offered free intrauterine devices and implants that prevent pregnancy for years, state officials asked, would those women choose them?
“They did in a big way, and the results were startling. The birthrate for teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There was a similar decline in births for another group particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school.
“‘Our demographer came into my office with a chart and said, ‘Greta, look at this, we’ve never seen this before,’ ’ said Greta Klingler, the family planning supervisor for the public health department. ‘The numbers were plummeting.’” New York Times, July 5th. The Evangelical/ Puritanical methods of persuasion and, where there is any training at all, sex education based primarily on teaching abstinence are complete and utter failures. They do not work. And what’s worse, they lead to pregnancies among women who are the least able to provide solid and mature care to these generally unwanted babies, perpetuating a cycle of under-educated children having babies, generation after generation.
For those with powerful anti-abortion feelings, high among Evangelicals, unwanted pregnancies also foster more pregnancy terminations that infuriate their sensibilities. You’d think that they would be among the forefront of the movement to endorse the Colorado experiment. But myth often trumps facts: anything that makes sex easier is likely to draw some strong religious opposition. However, the facts are stunning: “Teenage births have been declining nationally, but experts say the timing and magnitude of the reductions in Colorado are a strong indication that the state’s program was a major driver. About one-fifth of women ages 18 to 44 in Colorado now use a long-acting method, a substantial increase driven largely by teenagers and poor women.
“The surge in Colorado has far outpaced the growing use of such methods nationwide. About 7 percent of American women ages 15 to 44 used long-acting birth control from 2011 to 2013, the most recent period studied, up from 1.5 percent in 2002. The figures include all women, even those who were pregnant or sterilized. The share of long-acting contraception users among just women using birth control is likely to be higher.
“But the experiment in Colorado is entering an uncertain new phase that will test a central promise of the Affordable Care Act: free contraception.
“The private grant that funds the state program has started to run out, and while many young women are expected to be covered under the health care law, some plans have required payment or offered only certain methods, problems the Obama administration is trying to correct. What is more, only new plans are required to provide free contraception, so women on plans that predate the law may not qualify. (In 2014, about a quarter of people covered through their employers were on grandfathered plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.) Advocates also worry that teenagers — who can currently get the devices at clinics confidentially — may be less likely to get the devices through their parents’ insurance. Long-acting devices can cost between $800 and $900.
“‘There’s no lifeboat with the Affordable Care Act,’ said Liz Romer, a nurse practitioner who runs the Adolescent Family Planning Clinic at Children’s Hospital Colorado, which went from giving out 30 long-acting devices a year in 2009 to more than 2,000 in 2013.” NY Times. Think about the long-term savings to society. Reduced burden on the social welfare system, less pressure on the criminal justice system where all-too-many “unwanted babies” grow wind up. Other than to support rather completely disproven mythology, I cannot think of a good reason not to expand this Colorado experiment across the land. Can you? Isn’t it time to make this national policy?
I’m Peter Dekom, and there are such clear paths to improving American life, and it is a shame if ignorance or mythology prevents that from happening.

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