Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bush's Sex Scandal

Well, it seems we all have a slip here or there. So, Kristoff has pointed here to something that we all know better and better, but it seems we are trying to ignore it, or at least to allow it to continue without question or sit-ins in front to the White House to get the education priorities straight for a change.
I'm sorry to report a sex scandal in the heart of the Bush administration. Worse, it doesn't involve private behavior, but public conduct.

You see, for all the carnage in President Bush's budget, one program is being showered with additional cash - almost three times as much as it got in 2001. It's "abstinence only" sex education, and the best research suggests that it will cost far more lives than the Clinton administration's much more notorious sex scandal.

Mr. Bush means well. But "abstinence only" is a misnomer that in practice is an assault on sex education itself. There's a good deal of evidence that the result will not be more young rosy-cheeked virgins - it will be more pregnancies, abortions, gonorrhea and deaths from AIDS.
In the old days, social conservatives simply fought any mention of sex. In 1906, The Ladies' Home Journal published articles about venereal disease - and 75,000 readers canceled their subscriptions. Congress banned the mailing of family planning information, and Margaret Sanger was jailed in 1916 for selling a birth control pamphlet to an undercover policewoman.

But silence about sex only nurtured venereal diseases (one New York doctor, probably exaggerating, claimed in 1904 that 60 percent of American men had syphilis or gonorrhea), so sex education gradually gained ground. Then social conservatives had a brilliant idea: instead of fighting sex ed directly, they campaigned for abstinence-only programs that eviscerated any discussion of contraception.

That shrewd approach succeeded. In 1988, a survey by the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that only 2 percent of sex-ed teachers used an abstinence-only approach. Now, the institute says, a quarter of them do.

Other developed countries focus much more on contraception. The upshot is that while teenagers in the U.S. have about as much sexual activity as teenagers in Canada or Europe, Americans girls are four times as likely as German girls to become pregnant, almost five times as likely as French girls to have a baby, and more than seven times as likely as Dutch girls to have an abortion. Young Americans are five times as likely to have H.I.V. as young Germans, and teenagers' gonorrhea rate is 70 times higher in the U.S. than in the Netherlands or France.

Some studies have claimed that abstinence-only programs work, but researchers criticize the studies for being riddled with flaws. A National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy task force examined the issue and concluded: "There do not currently exist any abstinence-only programs with strong evidence that they either delay sex or reduce teen pregnancy."


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