Whoever coined the phrase "you can't argue with success" never ran into the folks who run the pro-abortion lobby. The representatives of these groups are willfully blind to the fact that more teens are open to the message of abstinence and to incorporating it into how they lead their lives. They realize that sexual activity without a binding commitment is a dead-end; the consequences ranging from hurt feelings at least to abortions, pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases. What should be common sense -- no sex before marriage -- is antithetical to the viewpoint of the staffs of organizations such as NARAL Pro-Choice America and The Alan Guttmacher Institute and their cheerleaders in the news media.
The news media jumped upon a study by Texas A&M on the effectiveness of abstinence programs. News coverage about the report's findings indicated that children who received abstinence education were not working because teens were having sex after participating in abstinence education classes. However, the Associated Press did note that A&M researcher Buzz Pruitt "cautioned against drawing overarching conclusions from the study, which is incomplete and does have flaws" including the lack of a control group that would permit measurement of whether the increase in sexual activity would be even greater if teens had no abstinence education at all.
The Abstinence Clearinghouse examined the study by Texas A&M. It decided to compare results with those found by the Center for Disease Control's 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey. In essence, the Texas teens in the YRBS study became the control group. The finding? Abstinence Clearinghouse found that "When compared with the general teen population [in the 2003 YRBS survey], teens who participate in abstinence education programs have significantly lower sexual activity rates." The difference was most pronounced among young males. Only 24% of ninth grade males engaged in sexual activity after abstinence classes, nearly 20 percentage points less than those in the larger YRBS study. Nearly 40% of males in the 10th grade did engage in sexual activity, 17 percentage points less than those 10th grade teen males surveyed in the YRBS study.
When NBC polled young Americans recently about their feelings involving sex, the survey turned up some surprising results. Most teens 13-16 years old have not engaged in sexual intercourse. Many are concerned about the adverse consequences, which include pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, even their parents' reactions. Forty-two percent say they have not had sex because of their moral or religious beliefs. The findings speak to the good sense displayed by many young Americans.
If only some of their elders possessed such common sense. The entertainment industry constantly besieges teens with messages urging sex in its ceaseless production of movies, television programs and songs glorifying sex. Who wants to hear a song about "Because I had sex and picked up a STD, I will never have a child?"
Last fall, the RAND Institute released the results of a study conducted for the National Institute of Child Health and Development. It showed teens who watched shows with a great deal of sexual content were much more likely to engage in sexual intercourse than those teens who watched programs with little sexual content. "This is the strongest evidence yet that the sexual content of television programs encourages adolescents to initiate sexual intercourse and other sexual activities," stated RAND psychologist Rebecca Collins. It is with reason that my friend, Leslee Unruh, President of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, asserts "clean programming is essential" to encourage young Americans to hold positive attitudes toward sex. Hollywood evidently has a very different idea.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Minority Member of the Committee on Government Reform, challenged the curriculums of abstinence programs, even faulting them for relying upon religious beliefs and moral values and for engaging in gender stereotyping. However, the report prepared by Waxman's own staff was shown to have engaged in faulty analysis. A lesson plan issued by Teen-Aid Inc. that he cited as having claimed as many as 15% of women would be unable to become pregnant after an abortion did not even include that statistic.
That lack of accurate information did not stop the pro-abortion lobby from welcoming the study. The response on their "Bush v. Choice" blog is likely to strike more than a few readers as being more suitable for scrawling on bathroom walls than to be placed on the webpage of a national lobbying organization. "Whatever it is that p----- me off most, it seems that I'm not the only one," states the NARAL Pro-Choice America section on the Waxman report. "...abstinence-only programs also push bull---- sex stereotypes." What specifically raises the ire of the writer? One point she takes exception to is, "One [abstinence-only] curriculum cited in the report teaches that women need 'financial support,' while men need admiration." Unless the young women who are pregnant come from a wealthy family, they generally do need financial support. Unfortunately, this assertion is just "not progressive" enough for the NARAL Pro-Choice America writer.
Conveniently ignored by the anti-abstinence forces are the good work of pro-abstinence programs such as Project Reality and Choosing the Best.
Project Reality's Game Plan program aimed at teens in grades seven to nine has been evaluated by Northwestern University researchers.
An August 2002 study by Northwestern University Medical School researcher John S. Lyons, Ph.D., discovered that "youth have a clearer understanding of abstinence and of the health consequences of engaging in or refraining from sexual activity after participating in the program. It also appears that the abstinence message can reach youth who are already sexually active. Finally, the reported behavioral intentions to remain abstinent from sexual activity until marriage increased significantly to two-thirds of all program participants."
Lyons note that there was a lack of a control group but added that the results would be unlikely to be achieved otherwise since most teens become more permissive about issues of sexual activity over time. The youth who were tested could simply be parroting back what their elders would like to hear. Even if that were so, Lyons said, "...that would be evidence that they clearly had head the "Game Plan" message."
An October 8, 2004 executive summary prepared by Stan Weed, Ph.D., at the Department of Health & Human Services' Institute for Research and Development assessed the results for students in grades seven to nine in two Georgia counties, Pike and Spaulding. Of the 938 students, 549 received the Choosing the Best curricula while a comparison group of 389 students did not receive education. Spaulding was considered to be "higher risk" in regard to teen pregnancies. Pike was lower risk. Weed's research found that "Spaulding County experienced significant reductions in initiation rates in all three treatment grades compared to comparison students." The results were less clear for Pike County given the comparison groups. However, the overall finding made clear that teen sexual intercourse might be able to fall by between 50 to 60% when students were exposed to the curricula of "Choosing the Best" for three years.
More young Americans need to hear the abstinence message despite what the naysayers may say. The fact is that many teens seek sex not because they are happy and successful, but because the opposite is true. Catching an STD or experiencing an unplanned pregnancy is no self-esteem booster. The fact that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently noted that America leads the developed world in deaths and disabilities related to STDs is no cause for celebration but good reason to take stock of where our country is headed. "Given the size and chronicity of HIV, HPV and other hepatitis virus epidemics, the overall health burden related to sexual behavior is unlikely to decline rapidly in the coming years," predicted the authors of the CDC study. With a gloomy finding like that sensible Americans would think the opponents of abstinence would be willing to rethink their position.
The fact is that the best prevention against STDs and unplanned pregnancies is not having sex before marriage. There are probably some Americans who think the San Francisco 49ers with 2 wins and 14 losses deserved to be in the Super Bowl this year. Get real. All the wishes and curse words and glossing over reality would not have given the 49ers a Super Bowl slot this year. Nor will they change the reality of abstinence as the best protection against STDs and unplanned pregnancies.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
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