Abstinence only strikes again

The right wing renews its commitment to lying about sex ed.

By Tedra Osell

Published March 28, 2008 8:10PM (EDT)

File under "no shit, Sherlock": Despite mounting research showing that abstinence-only sex ed doesn't work, the right wing still wants to spend tons of taxpayer money "teaching" damaging lies. As we've discussed in Broadsheet before, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that "one in four American girls has a sexually transmitted infection." And while there's plenty of evidence that abstinence-only "education" is worse than no sex education at all, the Family Research Council has decided to stick its fingers in its ears and shout "lalala," saying that "the CDC study illustrates why abstinence education is crucial." Because, apparently, it's crucial that those sluts who decide to have sex right in front of God and everyone get STDs and, hopefully, an unwanted pregnancy to boot. That'll show 'em.

The scrambling to deny clear-cut results is almost funny. Take, for instance, this Op-Ed in the Buffalo News arguing that the rise in teen pregnancy isn't a result of abstinence-only sex "education," it's the fault of Plan B! "To understand how this can possibly be," the author begins (and indeed, it does rather stretch credulity), "you have to look at the long-term effect on society of inexpensive and effective birth control." I see. But wait, the claim that abstinence-only sex ed isn't the culprit began with the statement that "given the fact that abstinence-only education has been around for years and that this big change was sudden, it seems legitimate to ask if the right suspect has been fingered."

So ... birth control has to be around for a long time before we can see its social impact, even though it only takes a month, tops, for oral contraceptives to reach maximum efficacy? Education, on the other hand, obviously affects behavior immediately. Right.

The article really is a fabulous piece of specious reasoning, made all the better because it hands you all the tools you need to see how stupid it is, but then goes plowing right ahead anyway. "Manipulating statistics can be done to support any point of view," the author admits, before going on to assert that condom use is like playing Russian roulette. How many unpregnant teenagers were unpregnant because of absintence-only programs? "We have no way of knowing," but the Heritage program (cited in the Op-Ed) says it's probably a lot, so there you go.

The upshot is that Plan B "leaves vulnerable young girls, whose only weapon against the unwanted sexual advances of men is the fear of pregnancy, defenseless. The man can say, 'Call me tonight and take two pills in the morning.'"

Did you know that the only defense women have against rape is being afraid of pregnancy? That's the kind of important truth that Plan B keeps you from realizing. If we would stop giving girls Plan B and immunizing them against human papillomavirus, we could "teach men to respect women, and not have intercourse with them until they are ready to care for the life they may be creating." Because men won't respect women who can take care of themselves.

And if the cost of chivalry is a 25 percent STD rate for girls and more unwanted pregnancy, well, lalala.

Tedra Osell

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