the world is flat

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 12, 2008

For 40 years, give or take a bit, children in American public schools have been immersed in a comprehensive sex-ed curriculum. This was necessary, parents were told, to prevent teen pregnancy and the spread of venereal diseases.

Now we can see the results. The federal agencies which have been pushing these educational programs now find that one-fourth of all American teenage girls are infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

One in four. Teenagers.

For some, the disease means that they will never be able to have children. For most, it means that all their future sexual partners-- and there may be many-- are likely to contract the disease.

What have we learned?

It's only natural to pose that question to the president of Planned Parenthood, an organization that has been offering sex-ed instruction for the past generation. Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, responds:

"The national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure,” Ms. Richards said, "and teenage girls are paying the real price."

OK, let's unpack that statement. Planned Parenthood and its allies have drawn tens of billions from the federal treasury, and told millions of American youngsters to use condoms and have fun. Despite their best efforts, a few federal dollars have trickled through to programs that suggest abstinence from sexual activity. And so, Cecile Richards tells us, the blame should fall on those few programs that promote abstinence from sex, because....

OK, now I'm stumped. Can you please help me out? What is the logic behind her argument?

- Is it that STDs are spread by abstinence? Can't be. We're talking about sexually transmitted diseases. No sexual activity, no STDs. QED.

- Is it, then, that someone who is trained to abstain from sexual activity is more likely to engage in sexual activity than someone who is trained to enjoy it (and use a condom)? An intriguing possibility, but an unlikely one. Suppose that I tell A that he should never drink Coke, while I tell B that he should enjoy Coke responsibly, and I provide him with change for the Coke machine. Who's more likely to drink Coke: A or B?

Honestly, I'm stumped here. I cannot fathom how any intelligent human being would suggest that children trained to abstain from sexual activity are more likely to contract STDs than those who are trained to believe that from the time of adolescence forward, sexual activity is healthy, pleasant, and more or less inevitable.

Could you please help me out? Please explain how you could decrease the prevalence of STDs by increasing the frequency with which young people engage in sexual activity. If you can make that argument plausible, you should be able to score a gazillion-dollar consulting contract from Planned Parenthood.

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  • Posted by: - Mar. 13, 2008 9:08 PM ET USA

    So, once again, are all these STDs spread by those taught about abstinence, rather than the "virtues" of condoms?

  • Posted by: - Mar. 13, 2008 7:11 PM ET USA

    I don't subscribe to it, but the "logic" is this: It is beyond the power of parents to control or influence their children in any way. As soon as our children become sexually mature they are bound to give in to their appetites and engage in sexual activity. Thus an abstinence-only program is cruel, because it instructs children to restrain themselves--impossible--and deprives them of information on contraceptives and perversion which would make them savvier consumers.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 13, 2008 12:25 PM ET USA

    Uncle Di! It's obvious you know nothing of governmental accounting. Were more people to engage in sexual behavior, those few unfortunate souls who did not follow the instruction manual properly would lessen their influence on the statistics. Were twice as many people to have sex, PP would expect that the percentage of those infected would be cut in half! And were the sample such that we could assume an error rate of +/- 6.25 percent, we could argue that the rate was only 1/4 of the orginal!

  • Posted by: - Mar. 13, 2008 12:14 PM ET USA

    I think Planned Parenthood is relying on a common belief (though mistaken) that condoms, when used correctly for each and every sexual encounter, are 100% effective at preventing the spread of STDs. Of course, the PP spokespeople don't make this claim explicitly--that would be false advertising! They simply make a vague and incomprehensible statement and hope the public will jump to a false conclusion that supports their efforts.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 13, 2008 11:58 AM ET USA

    I have come to the conclusion that Planned Parenthood believes that abstinence programs teach that you can do anything you like except vaginal intercourse - sort of a Bill Clinton thing. With that sort of program, it is very likely that STDs will be spread. True abstinence programs are actually chastity programs, which, of course, will ensure no STDs!

  • Posted by: - Mar. 12, 2008 10:06 PM ET USA

    Can't help you with an explanation & can't make PP's argument plausible...but, even if I could I doubt that I could "score a gazillion dollar consulting contract " from PP. They accept our tax money passed to them, against the will of many of us, by the government. They are not in the habit of giving any of it away just like they are not in the habit of helping anyone to be a parent...a murderer, yes, a parent, no.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 12, 2008 9:49 PM ET USA

    Put another way, who is more likely to get arrested for Driving While Intoxicated, someone who drinks, however moderately, or someone who doesn't drink at all?