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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Let’s talk about sex

    In case you missed it amid the noise of the elections last week, researchers unveiled a nifty little study that found the majority of Americans opposing abstinence-only sex education. The study should be published in my favorite journal: Statement of the Obvious.

    Abstinence-only education has been around for almost a decade now, with little or no evidence to suggest it’s done anything useful. Teenage pregnancies started to decline eight years before “”just say no to nookie”” debuted, and the newest studies even suggest that “”virginity vows”” don’t amount to much either.

    A whopping 88 percent of those who promised chastity ended up having sex anyway, and not surprisingly, they wanted more after their first go-around. After breaking their pledge, researchers found, the former pledgers had more partners in a shorter time than their peers who didn’t take the virginity vows.

    More importantly, only 40 percent of the former virginity pledgers reported using condoms, which resulted in high rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Score one for purity!

    Given these numbers, it’s really not that surprising that researcher Amy Bleakley would find opposition to the idea of abstinence-only education, but the breadth of the opposition is somewhat significant. Even among self-described conservatives, a full 70 percent supported comprehensive sex education.

    This will probably leave politicians scratching their heads. After all, the federal government expends almost $170 million to fund abstinence-only programs. The general thrust of these programs is to “”just say no,”” and condoms or other contraceptives aren’t even mentioned unless it’s to underscore their failure rates.

    What’s more, they’re loaded with some pretty outrageous gender stereotypes. “”Females have the uncanny ability to remember the most insignificant details about past experiences,”” one excerpt published by Harper’s Magazine reads. “”This terrifies the average male… Men tend to be more tuned in to what is happening today and what needs to be done for a secure future.””

    It’s one thing to fund a failing program that you believe in – that’s practically an American pastime. But with the vast majority of Americans opposed to abstinence-only sex education, and with that “”education”” assuming some pretty strange forms, it’s odd that President Bush would continue to bang away at the issue as if it’s a winning campaign slogan.

    As with most political quandaries, though, this traces back to one of Bush’s best governing strategies – funding a cause championed by the conservative base without really questioning the wisdom of it.

    Over the summer, for example, a congressional committee found significant problems with Bush’s policy of funding “”pregnancy resource centers”” with money from federal abstinence-only programs.

    The resource centers are generally run by faith-based organizations and provide counseling to pregnant women and teenagers. Whether the federal government should be funding faith-based organizations is a different question all together, but for now let’s consider the result of that funding: Egregious ethical violations.

    The committee staff found that workers for the pro-life centers provided false and misleading information to women seeking abortions in an effort to dissuade them from terminating the pregnancy. Workers at the centers claimed that “”all abortions cause an increased risk of breast cancer,”” that abortion could lead to “”many miscarriages”” in the future and that the suicide rate in the year after an abortion “”goes up by seven times,”” all of which are misleading at best and utterly false at worst.

    Should we all work to ensure that women don’t have to have abortions? Absolutely. But most Americans could probably agree that coercion certainly isn’t the way to go, especially when federal dollars are used to facilitate it. Yet an accountability report in July found that the administration had yet to evaluate the performance of these faith-based groups.

    This leaves President Bush (and the newly minted Democratic majority in Congress) at a curious crossroads. Public opinion and common sense appear to be drifting away from Bush’s policy of giving money and then looking the other way, but it’s unclear whether the Nancy Pelosi crowd will want to poke around this corner of the culture wars.

    For the sake of millions of American teenagers, though, the Dems would do well to insist that federal money be put to use in sex-education programs that have been proven to be effective rather than those endorsed by a vocal minority.

    And as a man, who is surely “”tuned in to what is happening today and what needs to be done for a secure future,”” Bush will have to accept it.


    Damion LeeNatali is a senior majoring in political science and history. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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