The Department of Health and Human Services, an agency I more or less trusted during previous (Democratic AND Republican) administrations, is reportedly planning to give out $50 million in federal funds for abstinence education targeted at unmarried adults between the ages of 19-29. The stated reason is that women in that age range have the highest rate of giving birth while being unmarried. That’s an amazing grasp of the obvious, since 19- to 29-year-old women also have the highest rates of giving birth period, according to the Statistical Abstract of the United States [table 74].) This twisting of statistics for the sole purpose of trying to influence the sex lives of consenting adults is absurd. To hold up “unmarried women” who have children as the reason this needs to happen? Belittling and disrespectful. Read about it here, here, and here.
This executive agency (for the people who run agencies like this are appointed by the president), like so many others, has turned from being a place of reliable, mostly unbiased information into a bully pulpit for the current administration. And that is not good for the country. Put that money elsewhere – towards programs to provide reliable birth control to those who are uninsured or those whose insurance won’t cover birth control, towards educational programs designed to teach about the broad spectrum of sexual behaviors so that people are armed with scientific knowledge about their reproductive choices, towards programs who provide support to single parents and their children, towards affordable child care programs, etc. etc. etc. Fifty million dollars is a lot, especially for this kind of program, which has yet to be proven efficacious despite being adopted all over the country. From the Guttmacher Policy Review (Summer 2006, volume 8, number 3) a report entitled “Legislating Against Arousal: The Growing Divide Between Federal Policy and Teenage Sexual Behavior” we hear:
Given current patterns of teenage sexual activity, it is probably safe to say that efforts to prevent teenagersâ€”let alone all unmarried peopleâ€”from engaging in anything potentially sexually stimulating are at best unrealistic. At worst, such efforts may have harmful public health consequences, by failing to prepare young people for the time they, almost inevitably, will become sexually active. To date, there is no sound scientific research suggesting that abstinence-only education delays the initiation of sexual activity. There is evidence, however, that such programming, which either precludes information about condoms and contraception entirely or permits only negative information, may be making it harder for young people to effectively engage in protective behaviors down the road.
You think this isn’t true? Read about Timken high school in Canton, Ohio (here and here) where they’ve rescinded their abstinence-only sex education after realizing that 65 female students (of 490) were pregnant. Here is a report where the state details one of the abstinence-only grants Timken received (page 16).
And so this administration and their lackeys in DHHS now want to throw money at similar programs for adults, none of which work, and many of which may make it harder for people to be healthy in the future. I’m incensed. Absurd.