On December 5, 2007, Mike Stobbe, AP Medical Writer, wrote an article that reported a 3% increase in the teen birth rate---the first increase in 14 years.
For some reason, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were surprised.
I fully expect that the teen birth rate, and rate of STDs, will be on the rise. I attribute this to the absolute failure of the only sexual education program taught in schools: abstinence-only.
As I stated in my post, "Abstinence only sex education is risky and ineffective," the abstinence only program---which received $168 billion in funding in 2005, and has only received more funding since---uses an approach to education and discipline that any parent knows is likely to have a high failure rate: Don't Do It Because I Said So.
In fact, I cited three reasons why I believe the abstinence-only programs are a failure:
1. Mixed messages about group think
2. One size does not fit all
3. The irony in the negative
But don't take my word for it:
* In 2005 a study funded by the Texas Department of Health concluded that, "Abstinence-only sex education programs have had "little impact" on Texas teenagers' behavior." (Source: Medical News Today, "Abstinence-Only Sex Education Programs Have Little Effect on Texas Teenagers' Behavior, Study Says," February 2, 2005.)
* A national study funded by Congress, tracked the abstinence only program beginning in 1997, and concluded the same thing as Texas: ". . .abstinence-only sex education does not keep teenagers from having sex. Neither does it increase or decrease the likelihood that if they do have sex, they will use a condom." (Source: The Washington post, "Study Casts Doubt on Abstinence-Only Programs," by Laura Sessions Stepp; Saturday, April 14, 2007; Page A02.)
These conclusions are intriguing since states contributed matching funds to the federal abstinence only program, and funding has continued to increase despite the multiple studies---some state-funded and some privately-funded---that all conclude the abstinence-only programs are ineffective.
Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.---director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania---said in his article, "Blind faith on sex-ed approach puts kids at risk"
Actually, you cannot expect abstinence-only sex ed to be protective, effective or in any way useful at all. Ever. Period. Enough already. It's time to pull the plug on abstinence-only sex education. There are too many lives at stake to put up with a reproductive-health policy that is willing to kill and disable our kids out of an allegiance to a blind faith in something that does not work.
I agree, and I think Democratic candidates do, as well. Or do they?
They seemed to change their mind from one season to the next.
In May, according to NPR, "Democratic Rep. John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, made it clear that Democrats do not intend to re-fund a $50 million grant program for abstinence-only sex education. Dingell says he considers the funded programs 'a colossal failure.'"
"Democrats would still include money for abstinence teachings in schools, but would combine it with comprehensive sex-ed program* that would teach about birth control and other safe sex methods." (Click here to read the full USA Today article.)
The abstinence-only grant was set to expire on June 30, 2007.
However, despite Democrat statements and the factual studies that revealed the fallibility and lack of efficacy of abstinence-only education, in June, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations voted to increase federal funding for community based abstinence-only education programs (CBAE) in this country by $27.8 million.
In November, the increase amount was officially set at $28 million for a grand total of $141 million. President Bush would like that amount increased to $204 million for 2008.
This brings the grand total of money spent on abstinence only education to over $1 billion dollars.
(Source: SIECUS press release.)
What happened to cutting funding? What happened to responsible sex education?
I don't think we need to ask the Republicans how they'll vote when it comes to funding abstinence-only programs in 2008. Despite facts, studies, evidence, and this new teen pregnancy rate increase, I feel fairly sure they'll vote in favor of the increase.
This leaves us with the Democrats...how will they vote?
Here's what I discovered (after an unbelievable amount of digging):
Senator Clinton and Senator Obama both favor programs* that teach both abstinence and traditional/comprehensive sex education. Both have created programs to decrease teen pregnancy. Senator Obama's was focused to minorities.
Edwards, Gravel, Kucinich, and Richardson also support the mixed program.*
Senator Dodd does not support abstinence-only programs and is vocal in his criticism of the Bush program.
Joe Biden has voted to fund abstinence-only education programs.
* The program, specifically, is the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act. In short:
The Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act, sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT), would provide federal money to support responsible sex education in schools. This education would include science-based, medically accurate, and age appropriate public health information about both abstinence and contraception.
(Source: Advocates for Youth.)
My question to the Democrats is this: despite stated support for the REAL Act and continued verbal support of funding decreases, funding continues to increase. If you were elected President, what would you do with the existing sex education programs?
My question to you is: What would you like to see the new administration—who ever it is—do about sex education programs?
cross-posted at Moms Speak Up and The Political Voices of Women. Check out both site...there's some great new information up, besides my article. ;)
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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