No one quite knows what to make of the new health care reform. With all the compromising it took to get this initiative passed, undoubtedly it's going to have some serious defects. One of the obvious flaws is the more than $250 million allocated to abstinence-only sex-ed programs.
Just like universal health care, abstinence-only programs work in theory. If these methods could override teen hormones and neutralize sex drive, they would undoubtedly reduce escalating teen pregnancies and STD rates. Unfortunately these programs promote abstinence as a means of preventing unplanned pregnancies and STIs while omitting or actively campaigning against contraceptives. They teach students that abstinence is the only way to prevent pregnancy and STDs, and that all other forms of birth control are useless. If teens have proven one thing time and again, it's that they're going to have premarital sex despite their religious, moral, or cultural upbringing. When students who have endured abstinence-only programs do have sex, they often disregard contraceptives as they've been taught that anything but abstinence doesn't work. Instead, they rely on the power of prayer and wishful thinking to avoid pregnancy and STIs.
Bush originally funneled over $100 million federal dollars annually, and $50 million in state funds, into abstinence-only programs. President Obama's first two budgets yanked this money. Congress re-appropriated the $110 million from these faith methods into sex-ed programs that were proven through research (this excludes abstinence-only teachings). For evidence of their ineffectiveness, see how useful abstinence-only education was for Sarah Palin’s daughter, Bristol Palin.
This new decision comes after several studies linked abstinence-only programs to a resurgence in teen pregnancy rates.
"To spend a quarter-billion dollars on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that have already been proven to fail is reckless and irresponsible," James Wagoner of the Washington group Advocates for Youth told the Washington Post. "When on top of that you add the fact that this puts the health and lives of young people at risk, this becomes outrageous."
This $50 million every year for five years to fund abstinence-only programs was earmark by Utah’s Republican Senator, Orrin G. Hatch. Also included in the law is $75 million a year over five years for more traditional sex-ed plans.
This raises the issue of compromise. All comprehensive sex-ed programs teach abstinence as the best way to eliminate unwanted pregnancies and STIs. However, abstinence-only programs denigrate the usefulness of contraceptives. Ultimately, this should be a first amendment question of censorship and whether public students have anything to gain from being withheld accurate information about contraceptives.
Luckily I've come up with a compromise. Let each state decide if they want to use their sex-ed money for comprehensive or abstinence-only programs. Then force these states to pay for all health-care costs associated with unwanted teen pregnancies and STIs that occur after their constituents go through these programs. Just like teens who choose to have premarital sex, states will be held accountable for the consequences of their uninformed decisions.
Read more at washingtonpost.com