Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The War on Science (and Common Sense): Abstinence-Only Sex Ed

The federally funded abstinence only sex education curricula for the schools has come under fire for stating inaccurate "facts" about condoms and pregnancy, including:
"Nearly 1 in 3 [people] will contract AIDS from [an] infected partner with 100% condom use."

"The popular claim that 'condoms help prevent the spread of STDs,' is not supported by the data."

"Premature birth, a major cause of mental retardation, is increased following the abortion of a first pregnancy.
Harper's Magazine has printed some choice excerpts that show it isn't only abstinence that is being promoted; it's also important for women to not do anything to damage a fella's fragile ego:
Deep inside every man is a knight in shining armor, ready to rescue a maiden and slay a dragon. When a man feels trusted, he is free to be the strong, protecting man he longs to be.

Imagine a knight traveling through the countryside. He hears a princess in distress and rushes gallantly to slay the dragon. The princess calls out, “I think this noose will work better!” and throws him a rope. As she tells him how to use the noose, the knight obliges her and kills the dragon. Everyone is happy, except the knight, who doesn’t feel like a hero. He is depressed and feels unsure of himself. He would have preferred to use his own sword.

The knight goes on another trip. The princess reminds him to take the noose. The knight hears another maiden in distress. He remembers how he used to feel before he met the princess; with a surge of confidence, he slays the dragon with his sword. All the townspeople rejoice, and the knight is a hero. He never returned to the princess. Instead, he lived happily ever after in the village, and eventually married the maiden—but only after making sure she knew nothing about nooses.

Moral of the story: Occasional assistance may be all right, but too much will lessen a man’s confidence or even turn him away from his princess.
Just this alone is enough to put off most self-respecting girls.

Or how about this propaganda gem:
At conception, the baby comes into being. About the sixth to tenth day after conception, when the baby is no bigger than this dot (.), the baby snuggles into the soft nest in the lining of the mother’s uterus.
The "baby snuggles"? No matter what you believe about when human life begins, no one in their right mind would talk about a 6-10 day old "baby" doing anything like "snuggling". The human embryo at this stage is essentially a mass of cells inside a sac. There is no nervous system, no limbs, no muscles. It isn't until at least 47 days (when brain waves can first be detected) that the embryo has developed enough to even begin imagining a "snuggle", and even then it's a stretch.

Studies in several states have shown that the rate of teen pregnancy and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases does not decrease with abstinence-only sex ed. In fact, in some cases the curriculum has only exacerbated the problem:
Abstinence-only programs changed Arizona teens' attitudes toward birth control for the worse, increasing the risk that those who did have sex would do so without protection. Five percent more teens reported having intercourse after participation.
Is this where our tax dollars should be spent? I don't think so.
Why not give teenagers the real facts so that they can make informed decisions?

(Article in Harper's via Salon.com pointed out by Sharon's Muse. There are more quotes and commentary at Pharyngula.)

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