Thursday, March 23, 2006
The truthiness about sex
Stop the ACLU posted an item today about a recent ACLU press release regarding the sex education curriculum in Rhode Island's public schools. The ACLU has argued - and the Rhode Island Department of Education has agreed - that the federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum failed to live up to Rhode Island's anti-discrimination statutes and comprehensive sex education laws.
It was a straightforward, no-nonsense press release. But our buddy Gribbit at Stop the ACLU proceeded to completely misread it and post his distorted interpretation under the headline "Abstinence Is Harmful? News To Us." He took a portion of the ACLU headline, dismantled an adjective (”Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage”), eliminated the subject (”Curriculum”), then made a component of the adjective (”Abstinence”) the new subject.Gribbit also included a little lecture on reproductive health, which is (mostly) accurate and inarguable, save for a bizarre and misplaced attack (?) on homosexuals. We don’t need to be reminded that abstinence is the best method for avoiding unwanted pregnancies and STDs. That’s not the issue here. The issue is that teaching ONLY abstinence is dangerous in that it doesn’t teach teens that there are methods to safely engage in sex. Asking teens not to have sex is like asking kittens not to be cute. Not gonna happen. And contrary to what Gribbit claims, having sex is not akin to shoplifting. Now do I believe that teaching abstinence should be part of sex education? Of course! And I bet the ACLU does, too. However, it should be part of a comprehensive curriculum that covers the many aspects of sex.
Also included in Gribbit's post are some inaccurate figures regarding the effectiveness of hormonal birth control. According to the FDA, hormonal birth control has a failure rate of 1-2%, not 8%. In practice, this number goes up to 5% as a result of missed does, etc., but this is hardly the drug’s fault. Additionally, the FDA says that, administered correctly, the pill can be up to 99.9% effective.
Of course condoms, the pill, and other common methods of contraception aren't infallible, but they’re a hell of a lot more effective if used properly. It only makes sense, then, to teach teens how to use them properly.
As for Gribbit's claims regarding abortion safety, the data shows otherwise again. Abortion as performed by a licensed physician is among the safest surgical procedures there are. According to a CDC fact sheet, only 1% of abortions result in infection (common to all surgeries), and 0.6 deaths occur per 100,000 abortions, which happens to be lower than the maternal fatality rate associated with live birth (9.8 per 100,000). Regarding the purported abortion-breast cancer link, the National Cancer Institute issued a report written by a group of breast cancer experts that says there is no link between abortion and breast cancer.
The debate over at what point life begins will rage on forever, but, as the Supreme Court said in Roe v. Wade, settling that argument is beside the point. In the majority opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote, "the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense" and therefore did not enjoy the status or rights of such persons. The Court also held that criminalizing abortion "abridged [a woman's] right of personal privacy, protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments."