Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Perfect is the Enemy of Good

Damn, I hate it when the facts on the ground interfere with my preconceptions. This week, when the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommended IUDs and hormonal birth control implants for sexually active teens, my first thought was, "What about protecting them from sexually transmitted infections?"

I feel like a Values Voter, only my cry will be "Condoms for everyone" not "Keep your knees together OR ELSE."

Religious conservative groups oppose comprehensive sex ed for teenagers, preferring to tell kids that they must abstain from sex before marriage. Take it away, Focus on the Family.
Focus on the Family supports abstinence-until-marriage education in the public schools because it is God's expected standard as communicated in Scripture. God's perfect plan for sexuality unfolds as an exclusive blessing for husband and wife in marriage and also ensures protection for the unmarried. Sexuality is a glorious gift from God meant to honor Him either in marriage or in celibacy.
Here on planet earth, the average teenager has sex around his/her 17th birthday.  And abstinence only education is associated with higher rates of unintended pregnancy, not lower. Surely, the fact that their beliefs have been repudiated will cause these conservatives to change their tune. What do you say, Family Research Council?
Abstinence-until-marriage programs have proven to be very effective in reducing sexual activity among young people. Their success in changing young people's views and behavior is due to the fact that they teach young people that saving sex for marriage is the best choice, one that will benefit them now and in the future. In addition, these programs give students the knowledge and skills they need to abstain until marriage
Okay, then.

In my perfect world, kids would learn that using condoms in a loving relationship is the best way to protect both partners from pregnancy and STIs. Oddly, it seems like kids don't like condoms any more than we adults do, and they don't always use them. Anything to add, Journal of Adolescent Health?
Adolescents who received comprehensive sex education were significantly less likely to report teen pregnancy than those who received no formal sex education, whereas there was no significant effect of abstinence-only education. ... Neither abstinence-only nor comprehensive sex education significantly reduced the likelihood of reported STD diagnoses. [emphasis mine.]
Well, that is inconvenient. You mean telling kids to use condoms is not reducing their risk of STIs? Imagine, the evidence-based studies not conforming to my prejudices. The nerve of these scientists with their statistical analysis and polling data.

Luckily, I'm a feminist, not a values voter, so I'm allowed to change my mind based on actual evidence. I'll send a $5 thank-you to the Guttmacher Institute, who seeks to advance "sexual and reproductive health worldwide through research, policy analysis and public education."

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