Tuesday, February 02, 2010

BOTL: Now with More Tebow, More Abstinence, More Kerfuffle

A laundry list of items, and the sun isn't even up yet.

The Daily Star ran an editorial the New York Times flung out on Sunday, which I missed at the time.
A letter sent to CBS by the Women's Media Center and other groups argues that the commercial "uses one family's story to dictate morality to the American public, and encourages young women to disregard medical advice, putting their lives at risk" - a lame attempt to portray the ad as life-threatening.

The would-be censors are on the wrong track.

Instead of trying to silence an opponent, advocates for allowing women to make their own decisions about whether to have a child should be using the Super Bowl spotlight to convey what their movement is all about: protecting the right of women like Pam Tebow to make their private reproductive choices.

The editorial notes that the Tebows' story is being brought to you by Focus on the Family, but conveniently omits the fact that FoF works tirelessly--with nearly bottomless funding from their adherents--to increasingly restrict women's rights to make choices about their pregnancies, with the ultimate goal of eliminating the choice of abortion altogether, as well as eliminating many forms of contraception as well. Pam Tebow ostensibly had a choice (although abortion for any reason has been illegal since 1930 in the Phillippines, where Tim was born, it's questionable whether she actually had the choice she claims to have made), and she's shilling the story of that choice on behalf of an organization that is committed to removing the same choice from other women. Nice job on nuance, NYT and Daily Star!

Next up, abstinence!

A new study shows for the first time that a sex-education class emphasizing abstinence only - ignoring moral implications of sexual activity - can reduce sexual activity by nearly a third in 12- and 13-year-olds compared with students who received no sex education.

"This study, in our view, is game-changing science," said Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group based in Washington, D.C.

"It provides for the first time evidence that abstinence-only intervention helped young teens delay sexual activity."

The study reported here covered 600+ low-income African-American 12- and 13-year-olds in the Northeast, who were split into four groups who received different eight hour courses in 8th grade. The control group got generic healthy living, the first test group got abstinence-only, the second safe sex (excluding abstinence), and the third got a combination of safe sex and abstinence. Over the following two years, half the safe-sex kids reported sexual activity, while only a third of the abstinence-only kids did; the comprehensive group was in the middle.

Okay, so abstinence-only education was tops at keeping 12- and 13-year-olds from having sex before they turned 14 or 15. Fair enough. But is there a kicker?

None of the classes appeared to influence the use of condoms or other birth control when the students did have sex. The children thus remained at risk of pregnancy and venereal disease.

About 8.8 percent of participants in the comprehensive class reported activity with multiple partners, compared with 14.1 percent in the control group, indicating that the comprehensive class reduced the risk of disease. Neither diseases nor pregnancies were monitored, however.

Ding ding ding! Maybe abstinence should be hammered at the younger kids--this study certainly suggests it's an effective tactic--but I have to ask if 55 kids (33% of the control group) having sex at 14 with no understanding of contraception is really a preferable outcome to 86 kids having sex at 14 after at least having been taught about condoms. The difference is statistically significant, but in terms of actual lives, 55 and 86 are pretty much a wash. If anything, the study does make it horribly clear that a huge unresolved problem is how to convince kids to use the goddamn condoms and other contraception once they've learned about them. Too bad disease and pregnancy were not monitored; since those are the two conditions abstinence-only and comprehensive sex ed agree need to be minimized, those are the outcomes that would seem to be the most salient.

Oh, and on the teeny tiny kerfuffle of the NYT gays-aren't-monogamous story? A few commenters elsewhere have read my objections as being objections to open relationships and rational thinking about partnering, and possibly to gay men as well. No, no, no. Got no problem with people negotiating relationship parameters that work for them, and am not unaware of the high incidence of infidelity in hetero marriages and the problems that causes when couples don't write external affairs into their rules but go on to have them anyway. Nor do I think all gay partnerships must hew to the mythological Ozzie-and-Harriet model in order for us to have a chance at marriage equality; what works for me might not work for you, and that's fine. I just despair when I see glosses reported as science, particularly when I know exactly the kinds of bozos in my own state and possibly own family who will pounce on the pronouncement that half of all gay relationships incorporate non-monogamy and use it as the only justification they will ever need to keep voting against full civil rights for us and to keep throwing money at organizations that think we should all be executed, or jailed, or maybe just subjected to compulsory reparative therapy.

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