Saturday, November 17, 2007

Abstaining from Abstinence: On a Path to Self-Destruction (BC Courier Times, 1/8/08)

(Click images to enlarge....)

(The original, unedited submission(s)....)

As per a Courier Times’ December 21st editorial, "Damaging reports over the last few months have questioned the effectiveness of government-backed 'abstinence-only' programs."

Among the supposed "damaging reports", I assume that the Courier Times is referring to a November 2007 report from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. On November 7th, the Courier Times heralded its arrival in this manner - "Study: Abstinence Programs Don't Work." Now, there's a problem. Citing limited available data on abstinence education, the National Campaign actually warns that "one should not conclude that all abstinence programs are ineffective. After all, programs are diverse, fewer than 10 rigorous studies of these programs have been carried out, and studies of two programs have provided modestly encouraging results."

By "damaging reports", I assume that the Courier Times is also referring to the April 2007 report from Mathematica Policy Research, which looked at four abstinence education programs for middle schoolers. On April 14th, the Courier Times heralded that report’s arrival in this manner - “Study: Abstinence Programs Not Working.” There are problems here, also. While Mathematica did not find the four particular programs to have measurable impacts, it certainly did discuss their shortcomings, including failure to address older youth and failure to ensure peer support (i.e., “promoting support for abstinence among peer networks should be an important feature of future abstinence programs”). In addition, Mathematica indicated that concerns of abstinence education leading to more risky behaviors and more STDs lacked credibility.

Commenting on the CDC’s December 5th “Births: Preliminary Data for 2006,” the Courier Times is quick to infer that a slight rise in teenage pregnancy from 2005 to 2006 is yet another indication of the supposed failure of abstinence education. The Courier Times is certainly consistent, in that it refuses to allow the contents of reports to influence its editorial take on them.

In 1957, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported a total of 340,687 known cases of Sexually Transmitted Disease (STDs) in the United States. In subsequent years, America saw the arrival of readily available contraceptives and readily available abortion, as part of a so-called “Sexual Revolution.” While 34% of Planned Parenthood’s billion dollar annual revenues now come from government grants, another 38% comes from its “health center income.” That “health center income” includes profits from the provision of contraceptives, as well as a quarter million abortions, annually. At the dawn of the new millennium, the pharmaceutical industry, in general, looked forward to further expanding its market and its offerings in contraceptives and abortifacients. The status quo, firmly entrenched by astronomical revenues, can always be relied on to advocate throwing ever more dollars at so-called “safe sex” practices.

The status quo strategies of the past 50 years are certainly working, but not in the manner that any knowledgeable parent would want for their own child! In regard to STDs, the CDC currently "estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24." In other words, there are now 56 times more new cases of STD infection, than there were overall STD infections in 1957! With the Sexual Revolution and its ready availability of contraceptives and abortion bringing us to this point, how does it make any sense to continue down the same paths?

While the Courier Times has clearly staked out an editorial stance in opposition to abstinence education, the reasoning for such is anything but clear. To this reader, it appears likely that the editorial staff has not read the so-called "Damaging reports over the last few months.” In regard to reader submissions, Courier Times policy indicates that documentation of any information stated as fact should be available. May we simply request the same?


· Centers for Disease Control, Cases of sexually transmitted diseases reported by state health departments and rates per 100,000 civilian population: United States, 1941-1993 <>.
· Centers for Disease Control, Births: Preliminary Data for 2006 <>.
· Centers for Disease Control, Trends in Reportable Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the United States, 2006 <>
· Johnson, EDB, The return of the pharmaceutical industry to the market of contraception (in Steroids, October-November 2000, Pages 709-711)
· Mathematica Policy Research, Impacts of Four Title V, Section 510 Abstinence Education Programs, <>
· National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Emerging Answers 2007: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, <>
· Planned Parenthood Federation of America Annual Report 2005-2006 <>

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