Wednesday, July 22, 2009

WTF? Are The Bushies To Blame For The Spike In Teen Pregnancies & STDs?

In light of a new Centers For Disease Control report showing that teen pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases are on the rise after a decade of declines, it is temping to argue that the Bush administration's obeisance to abstinence-only programs is to blame.

That is not a difficult conclusion to reach considering that study after study not driven by evangelical purity has revealed that abstinence-only programs don't cut down on pregnancies and disease and that far more effective are those "controversial" sex-ed programs that include information about how and why contraception works.

All that so noted, we can't really tighten the noose around President Bush and the Holier Than Thou crowd until it can be ascertained if the phasing out of abstinence-only programs and increase in sex-ed programs in coming years stanches the spike.

I'll get back to you, in say, five.

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My own daughter is now at the upper edge of the 10- to 24-year-old population group that the CDC used, and for a variety of reasons beginning at home and extending to her schools, she had the best information and advice available on which to make her own decisions regarding sexuality.

Many other girls and boys were not so fortunate, and nothing infuriated me personally (as opposed to say torture and the Iraq war, which pissed me off royally) over the last eight years than a bunch of right-wing Christianists trying to tell my daughter and her peers who they can't do with their bodies. Then there is Derek Dye, the Abstinence Clown.

Kristi Hamrick, a spokesmouth for American Values, the Gary Bauer-led group that is foursquare "against liberal education and cultural forces," bellyaches that the abstinence message is overwhelmed by a culture obsessed with sex.

"In every other area of public policy -- food, drugs, alcohol -- we tell children what is the best choice," Hamrick says. "It seems very bizarre that the sex education establishment rejects the idea that we should talk to kids about what is best for them. We don't take vodka to drivers education because children will drink and drive."

There, in a mere 50 or so words is revealed the idiocy of the abstinence argument:

By merely explaining contraception in the context of sexuality -- and in the better programs further elaborating on the raging emotional changes that teens routinely have to navigate -- puts teens into full rut and they end up screwing like rabbits. Meanwhile, withholding information -- that is to say not educating them -- keeps them from knowing what can hurt them, so they won't be as tempted to screw.

Or something.

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This brings us inevitably and rather unfortunately to the poster teen for why abstinence-only programs are a bunch of hooey.

This, of course, is Bristol Palin, the daughter of a woman who as Alaska governor preached the abstinence gospel while Bristol and Levi Johnson were doing the wild thing in their Wasilla home.

Bristol has polished her scarlet letter by going on the tube to explain that abstinence didn't work for her because she really wanted to do screw Levi. And boy did she and her mother ever.

This 18-year-old, as so many are, was clearly in over her head when those hormones started raging, but does have the wisdom to note that abstinence "is not realistic at all."

Are you listening, Kristi Hamrick? No, I didn't think so.

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It will not come as a shock that the spike in teen pregnancies and STDs is skewed toward poorer kids who probably did not have the good counsel and good schooling that my daughter did.

The CDC report found that pregnancy and AIDS rates were higher among Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women aged 15-19 than any other ethnic group. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were highest among non-Hispanic black young women and women aged 15-24.

The Southern states tended to have the highest early pregnancy and STD rates, which is sort of a grotesquely poetic justice since that is pretty much the only region where what's left of the Republican Party after the Age of Bush still has any clout.

Top photograph by Reuters

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