Just as homosexual rights activists seamlessly moved beyond the "leave us alone" strategy to demanding wholesale alterations in the culture and laws of America and civilization itself, sex education advocates have openly transcended their initial goals of educating youth about reproductive biology and contraception to favor similar radical changes. Some sex ed promoters, like many homosexualists and feminists, now oppose teaching young people that marriage is the ideal forum for sexuality. In fact, they criticize the notion that people can limit their sexual impulses at all.
At a time when those who control most channels of information devote unfathomable amounts of effort to urging people to discipline their appetites for food, drink, drugs, lethargy (exercise, exercise, exercise, they say), tobacco, and the like, sexuality receives different treatment. They classify more and more sexual impulses as normal and natural, and seem to think that anyone who does not favor sexual activity with as many attractive people as possible is some sort of prude.
The Bush Administration released an excellent set of grant criteria for its Community-Based Abstinence Education Program (CBAE) on January 26. The Health and Human Services Department's Administration for Children and Families will distribute $24 million intended to encourage young people to practice abstinence until marriage.
In response, on February 16, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) sent out a press release criticizing the program. Most Americans would likely be astonished at two of the criticisms:
The promotion of marriage is bad, and telling kids they can control themselves is bad. This is how far the sex education movement has gone. Needless to say, SIECUS is also irritated over the Bush Administration's upholding of heterosexuality as the norm, its lack of concern about "transgendered" youth, and the like.
ACF's abstinence-only guidelines for this program reaffirm traditional morality, the same morality that millennia of history have shown promote happiness and stability for the vast majority of people while ensuring the future of society. It also contains disease, which is now spreading exponentially among America youth, thanks in part to SIECUS and other sex educators who tell children not to be chaste and that condoms will protect you.
Instead, ACF, headed by fatherhood advocate Dr. Wade Horn, says, "Today's youth are bombarded by implicit and explicit messages that promote sexual activity before and outside of marriage. Unfortunately, teens receive less information about the physical and emotional benefits that they may find by having one lifelong sexual partner within marriage. Those youth who are aware of these benefits and want to delay sex until marriage may not receive from society the support and training that they need to achieve this goal. Government agencies often use special programs to target specific audiences that are underserved by other systems. Youth that are open to the message of delaying sex until marriage are such an audience."
ACF plans to send its $24 million to programs with rational messages that most American parents want their teenagers to hear. The successful applicant for a CBAE grant will, says ACF, tell youth the truth about contraceptives rather than the myth of contraception that sex educators want communicated. A correct program, says ACF:
The CBAE guidelines also want grantees to teach the psychological benefits of abstinence, stating the time-honored truths that "sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects" and that "bearing children out-of-wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child's parents, and society." Most politically incorrectly of all, the guidelines demand a program that "Teaches that the expected standard for sexual activity is within the context of a mutually monogamous marriage relationship between a man and a woman. Teaches that healthy human sexuality involves enduring fidelity, love and commitment; human happiness and well-being are associated with a stable, loving marriage. Teaches that non-marital sex can undermine the capacity for healthy marriage, love and commitment."
Employing the classic propaganda technique of trying to make his opponent look ridiculous by exaggerating his claims, William Smith, Vice President for Public Policy at SIECUS, said, "This funding announcement is full of wild and unfounded assertions that abstinence before marriage will cure everything from psychological disorders to criminal behavior and ensure financial success and a lifetime of happiness."
The types of ACF's claims for abstinence, marriage, and happiness aren't any greater than those made by anti-smoking activists: Refraining from this is likely to lead to greater happiness and health for you, your family, and society. Anti-smoking activists don't claim you will be perfectly healthy just so long as you don't smoke. Nor do they claim that because you smoke, you are certain to develop lung cancer or emphysema, and ACF doesn't claim that those who sleep around are certain to contract a serious disease or become unable to form a permanent relationship later in life. It's a matter of tendencies. There is obviously a lot more to health and happiness than not smoking or not fornicating. That doesn't mean that both are not highly valuable.
And, in fact, a 2001 analysis from Dr. Joe McIlhaney, head of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, determined that teenage sex is more harmful to health than teenage smoking. Don't count on hearing about that from many sources other than this one.
SIECUS' special report critiquing the ACF proposal says, "The new guidelines consistently emphasize negative consequences of premarital sexual activity and suggest that such consequences are inevitable. It is clear that the goal is to scare students rather than educate them as many of the suggested consequences, such as suicide and decreased school completion, have no basis in sound research." SIECUS also claims that teen virginity pledges lead to riskier sexual behavior. A coalition letter to Congress from groups such as the ACLU, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood made a similar claim last June, the same month studies came out supporting virginity pledges' effectiveness. So there have been studies, and media reports about studies, showing the opposite of the pro-teen-sex crowd's claims. Maybe not all social scientists agree, but there is at least a "basis in sound research" for ACF's guidelines.
HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt got a letter from one of the most liberal members of Congress the same day that SIECUS launched its critique. Rep. Henry Waxman (D.-Calif.) wrote, "Under the new guidelines, funding for abstinence education will be awarded based on ideology, not the effectiveness of programs in reducing teen sexual activity, teen pregnancy, and teen sexually [transmitted] disease rates."
The Bush Administration notes, "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that nearly 900,000 adolescents under the age of 19 become pregnant every year and about 3 million become infected with a sexually transmitted disease. Despite recent improvements in teen pregnancy and birthrates, U.S. rates are higher than any other developed nation." SIECUS is just another of the feminist and other groups whose hostility to marriage has become increasingly open. Perhaps it's time for a return to some old-fashioned restraint.
Joseph A. D'Agostino is Vice President for Communications at the Population Research Institute.
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