Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is The Post Right About This?

Part of the problem with a two-thousand page health care bill is that we have to have it interpreted for us by reporters. And they have not necessarily read the thing themselves -- often journalists are reporting on an interpretation that an involved party has presented to them: spin. I am thinking that the Washington Post might have something importantly wrong here, but I am not going to wade through all that text of the new health care reform bill to see if they do.
A little-noticed provision of the health legislation has rescued federal support for a controversial form of sex education: teaching youths to remain virgins until marriage.

The bill restores $250 million over five years for states to sponsor programs aimed at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by focusing exclusively on encouraging children and adolescents to avoid sex. The funding provides at least a partial reprieve for the approach, which faced losing all federal support under President Obama's first two budgets.

"We're very happy to see that funding will continue so the important sexual health message of risk avoidance will reach American teens," said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, a Washington-based lobbying group. "What better place to see such an important health issue addressed than in the health legislation?"

But the funding was condemned by critics, who were stupefied by the eleventh-hour rescue.

"To spend a quarter-billion dollars on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that have already been proven to fail is reckless and irresponsible," said James Wagoner of the Washington group Advocates for Youth. "When on top of that you add the fact that this puts the health and lives of young people at risk, this becomes outrageous." Health bill restores $250 million in abstinence-education funds

Here's my question -- do you think the words "until marriage" actually appear in the bill?

And really -- stupefied???

Contrast The Post with a Christian publication called WorldMag.com:
One unnoticed portion of the healthcare overhaul bill restores $250 million in funding over five years for programs that encourage youth to delay having sex. The Obama administration had cut $170 million in abstinence program funding from the annual budget – so this move, providing $50 million a year for the programs, doesn’t fully restore funding.

Some critics of abstinence education aren’t happy:
“To spend a quarter-billion dollars on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that have already been proven to fail is reckless and irresponsible,” said James Wagoner of the Washington group Advocates for Youth. “When on top of that you add the fact that this puts the health and lives of young people at risk, this becomes outrageous.”

We noted on the blog back in February that a new federally funded study showed these programs have been effective in delaying sexual debuts. Could that be the reason the funds were restored? It’s unclear. These programs – the ones that have been successful according to the study – don’t focus on saving sex for marriage, but simply encourage teens to delay having sex. Healthcare bill restores funding for abstinence programs

Though they are relying on The Post for their information, I suspect that the WorldMag.com interpretation is more accurate. I expect we will discover that the health bill funds classes that encourage young teens to delay having sex. Maybe one of our readers will download the entire health reform bill and scan it for the words "until marriage" and tell us what they find.

I support comprehensive sex education for teens. I think it's best for young people to understand everything about how their bodies work, they should understand the emotions they will experience after puberty, the effects of peer pressure, the risks of sexually transmitted disease and the responsibilities of pregnancy and parenthood. I think they should have all the facts so they can make good decisions.

And I think teenagers should abstain from sex until they are ready for it.

Something like one to two percent of Americans are virgins when they marry. "Abstinence until marriage" is a pie in the sky, there's no sense even talking about it, it's not going to happen. You tell students they should be abstinent until they marry and they are going to roll their eyes and blow you off. And never mind the gay ones who might never be allowed to marry.

The Bush administration funded absurd, religious-based abstinence "education" that included stuff like "purity balls" and chastity vows, the administration had a checklist of things that had to be included for the curriculum to qualify for funding, and it was as bad as Sunday school. For instance, you couldn't teach students how to use a condom properly and receive the federal funding. I don't know what's in the Obama bill, but if there is funding for schools to give persuasive, fact-based arguments and evidence to young students about why it is better not to have sex until you're older, I have nothing against that.

I am going to pick some numbers out of the Post article that I think indicate what the funding is actually for:
As part of Obama's first budget, Congress approved a request for more than $110 million for a new "teenage pregnancy prevention" initiative that would fund only programs that have been "proven effective through rigorous evaluation," effectively excluding abstinence programs.

The initiative includes $25 million for new, innovative programs that could potentially embrace those encouraging abstinence. A University of Pennsylvania researcher reported last month that a carefully designed, morally neutral abstinence-focused approach can work. But the program does not earmark funding for programs focused on maintaining virginity.

During the health legislation debate in the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) added $50 million in annual funding for five years to states for abstinence programs -- a provision that survived the tumultuous process that ensued.

So far I'm not hearing the words "until marriage," are you?
The legislation also includes $75 million a year over five years for a new "personal responsibility education" program, which would fund programs that teach youths about abstinence and contraception.

Okay, who's against that? That sounds like the TeachTheFacts.org curriculum in a nutshell. Personal responsibility, yay! The message should be, don't rush into having sex, but when you are ready for it you should use a condom, for this-and-this-and-this reasons.

Just to remind you, Valerie Huber is the executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, which promotes abstinence until marriage.
But Huber said it was unlikely that "abstinence-only" programs would be eligible for that funding, meaning that about 130 programs serving an estimated 1.5 million youths that had been getting funding directly from the federal government will still lose their funding in September.

"That's very troubling. This is not a time to be limiting solutions," Huber said.

So these Biblical, shame-and-fear-based abstinence propaganda programs will be losing their funding. There will be funding for teaching personal responsibility for your own sexual behavior. I'm not seeing a big problem here.

I see The Post's framing of this issue as a set-up. They want their readers to think that liberals are somehow in favor of teen sex, like we're "stupefied" that anyone would tell young people not to have sex until they're ready for it. But in reality, I think everyone on our side agrees that sex is a big responsibility that requires some maturity. We want our kids to delay the decision to have sex until they are ready, that is, until they are mentally mature, responsible, and well-informed about the consequences of their behavior, and are in a long-term relationship where they can trust the other person. Young teens should be given good, valid reasons to delay their leap into adult sexuality. The born-again programs implemented by the Bush administration were a farce and an insult to all thinking people, but it does not look to me -- reading through the filter of reporters' descriptions of something they probably have not themselves read -- like Congress just passed a bill requiring schools to teach about "abstinence until marriage."

If the words "until marriage" are in the bill, then we have something else to talk about. If they are not then the Washington Post is simply publishing falsehoods, trying to inflame a debate that should be conducted at a cool temperature. If those words are not in the bill then I think a major published correction is in order.

All the sources that I find online that mention "abstinence until marriage" cite this same Post article. I will be curious to see if any of that ridiculous stuff is in the bill. The indications are that a somewhat reasonable approach to abstinence education is funded. I don't have any problem with schools convincing young teens not to have sex, do you? As long as they do it with facts, and give students the facts they need, and educate them about risks and how to deal with them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of The Washington Post...buried on page 8 of it today is a story about a man who was arrested for threatening to kill Republican Eric Cantor and his family. Turns out the guy is a gay Muslim.

March 30, 2010 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Muslims and Jews at odds, imagine that.

Did you notice the story buried on page 4 of the arrest of nine members of a militia group who were plotting to kill police officers and other participants in what they called the "New World Order"...

"Thankfully, this alleged plot has been thwarted and a severe blow has been dealt to a dangerous organization that today stands accused of conspiring to levy war against the United States," Holder said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, identifies the Hutarees as one of 11 militias in Michigan. The group's Web site bears the slogan "preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive." YouTube videos display members of the group running across the woods brandishing firearms and wearing tiger-striped camouflage uniforms. Their shirt sleeves bear patches containing a black cross, two red spears, a V shape symbolizing the "supporting hands of the Hutaree" and the initials CCR, for Colonial Christian Republic, the court papers say...

Almost exactly one year ago, we read that Conservatives Decry Homeland Security Report on "Rightwing" Extremism. Conservatives railed against the report that predicted this rise in right wing hate groups.

And today we have Sarah Palin encouraging her supporters to take aim, put targets in their crosshairs, and plan to reload.


March 30, 2010 12:24 PM  
Blogger David S. Fishback said...

This link contains both the original Senate Bill and the Reconciliation Amendments. They are word searchable.


Plug in the word marriage, and see what you find. Maybe I looked too quickly, but I didn't find what the papers are reporting.

March 30, 2010 2:48 PM  
Blogger David S. Fishback said...

If you go to the Senate bill and plug in the word abstinence, you will find discussion of grants that include both abstinence and contraception, and also, at Section 2954, language that appears to restore money for abstinence education. But the bill itself does not discuss what abstinence education programs should be. I'd assume that that discussion in in the statutes referenced in Section 2954.

March 30, 2010 2:57 PM  
Anonymous yikyes! the socialist strikes! said...

bill should be repealed

in addition to higher taxes and premiums, we'll also have to wait longer to see doctor, if we can find one at all

I warned you about this:

"(March 30) -- Health reform has passed, and the United States government is poised to provide most of its citizens with health coverage.

But having health insurance doesn't necessarily mean it will be easy to find a doctor. Even before reform, reports projected a shortfall of 40,000 primary care physicians over the next decade. Thirty-two million newly insured Americans, plus the millions of baby boomers entering Medicare age, will only make this shortfall worse.

As a primary care doctor in New Hampshire, I have had the opportunity to observe the effects of health reform in neighboring Massachusetts, which enacted a similar approach to universal coverage in 2006.

Massachusetts covers 97 percent of its residents, the highest in the country. But its wholly unprepared primary care system was unable to handle the 500,000 newly insured patients looking for a regular doctor. According to the Massachusetts Medical Society, a primary care internist had an average wait time of 50 days for new patients, with almost half refusing to accept to new patients.

When Amherst, Mass., family physician Kate Atkinson decided to accept newly insured patients, she was forced to close her doors six weeks later. She told the Boston Globe that "there were so many people waiting to get in, it was like opening the floodgates," saying that her office is getting "10 calls a day from patients crying and begging."

And this is a state that already has the highest number of doctors per capita nationwide. It's frightening to imagine how other parts of the country, most of which have significantly fewer primary care doctors, can handle the influx of patients if Massachusetts can't.

Any hope to bolster the primary care work force, unfortunately, is not on the horizon.

With medical students graduating with an average educational debt exceeding $150,000, new doctors overwhelmingly choose to become specialists, which offer salaries several times more than those of primary care doctors. In the 2010 residency match, fewer than half of family practice residency slots were filled by American medical graduates, compared with more than 95 percent in fields like radiology, anesthesiology and orthopedic surgery.

Furthermore, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who can help alleviate the shortage, are also enticed by the lucrative allure of specialty care. As Newsweek recently reported, "almost half of current nurse practitioners and physician assistants work in specialty practices, where the money is."

Health reform does make modest increases in Medicare and Medicaid primary care clinician payments, better funding of loan repayment programs and pilot programs for new primary care models. But these incremental solutions fail to appreciate the enormity of the problem.

Nor do they address the phenomenon of physician burnout currently plaguing the field. A survey published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that nearly half of primary care doctors reported practicing in a work environment "strongly associated with low physician satisfaction, high stress ... and [an] intent to leave." Indeed, almost one-third said they were likely to leave their practice within two years.

At a time when primary care physicians are needed most, health reform does little to relieve these frustrated doctors of the unreasonable time pressures and onerous bureaucratic requirements that worsen their practice conditions and obstruct their patient relationships.

Unless our beleaguered primary care system can meet the seemingly insurmountable challenges that lie ahead, health reform will likely fail."

March 30, 2010 5:17 PM  
Anonymous jolly times said...

November will be a fun time to be a Republican:

"Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the health care overhaul signed into law last week costs too much and expands the government's role in health care too far, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, underscoring an uphill selling job ahead for President Obama and congressional Democrats.
Those surveyed are inclined to fear that the massive legislation will increase their costs and hurt the quality of health care their families receive.

Supporters "are not only going to have to focus on implementing this kind of major reform," says Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard. "They're going to have to spend substantial time convincing people of the concrete benefits of this legislation."

The risk for them is that continued opposition will fuel calls for repeal and dog Democrats in November's congressional elections. The bill was enacted without a single Republican vote.

In an interview airing Tuesday on NBC's Today, Obama acknowledges concerns about cost. "In making a health care system that works for all Americans," he said, "We are still going to have adjustments that have to be made to further reduce costs."

Obama's approval-disapproval rating was 47%-50%.

In the survey:

-When it comes to their families, they see less gain and more pain: Pluralities say it will make coverage and quality of care worse for them. By 50%-21%, they predict it will make their costs higher.

-There was a strong reaction against the tactics Democratic leaders used to pass the bill. A 53% majority call Democratic methods "an abuse of power."

-And when asked about incidents of vandalism and threats that followed the bill's passage, Americans are more inclined to blame Democratic political tactics than critics' harsh rhetoric. Forty-nine percent say Democratic tactics are "a major reason" for the incidents."

March 30, 2010 5:40 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, for most of us the reasonable thing to do when we don't have anything to say is to say nothing.

I will start deleting this political junk.


March 30, 2010 5:46 PM  
Anonymous yodel-ee-o said...

"Of the contentious issues debated in the new health reform law, advocacy for government funding of sex education programs teaching abstinence got scant attention. But a little-noticed section of the bill restores $250 million over five years for pregnancy-prevention courses that promote virginity among unmarried young people.

The funding was a victory for those favoring the abstinence approach, which gained momentum while reducing teen pregnancy rates for two decades, but lost currency in President Obama's first two budgets.

Whether teaching abstinence works in preventing unwanted pregnancies and controlling sexually-transmitted diseases is central to the argument. Under Obama, a long decline in teenage pregnancies is reversing. A University of Pennsylvania researcher reported last month that a carefully-designed, morally neutral progam for pre-teens could work in "in delaying the onset of sexual activity."

The money in the health care law is ticketed for states that sponsor pregnancy-prevention and STD programs focused exclusively on encouraging children and adolescents to avoid sexual activity."

March 30, 2010 8:41 PM  
Anonymous Merle said...

Anon, the Dabozzz site quotes the same Post article and adds nothing to the discussion. Surely you can prove that Jim is wrong and the Post is right!

March 30, 2010 8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never say Jim was wrong

he might be right

like him, I am not going to wade through all that text of the new health care reform bill

March 31, 2010 12:09 PM  

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