This is a good one. The Christian right feels the only type of sex education program that should be taught in public schools is one that advocates abstinence-only. The major push for this form of sex education comes from the Bush Administration, which has worked to triple the funding for abstinence-only programs. By itself, that doesn’t sound too bad, teaching people to wait until sex for marriage. However, these abstinence only curriculums refuse to educate their students about the various forms of contraceptives that are available and distort the facts to make their case through scare tactics.
Obviously, this push for abstinence-only has come from the Christian right-dominated Republican Party, so it’s useful to look at the conservative Christian thought towards sex education, which is that if you teach teens about ways to have sex without penalty then they will have sex all the time out of wedlock and destroy their morality along with the moral fiber of the country. The question I have to ask is: can you really stop human nature? A large number of teens are going to have sex whether you tell them to abstain or not. Worse, if they do not know about ways to minimize the risk to themselves, then they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors leading to teen pregnancy and STDs. Then if teen pregnancy rates increase, you have a higher demand for abortion since most teens cannot afford to care for a child. Of course, the Christian right is completely against abortion, so their desired policy of not teaching contraception methods actually works completely against one of their major goals: the abolition of abortion. Now, take the
Another problem with these abstinence only programs is that when they do mention contraceptives, they portray them as the cause of higher STD rates throughout the country. That might be fine if it were true. However, a Congressional study by Representative Waxman of California found that 80% of the abstinence only programs contain gross scientific errors that greatly inflate contraceptive failure rates and downplay their effectiveness against pregnancy and the STD’s (for the full Congressional report, click here). In reality, the scientific data shows that many contraceptives are effective at preventing the most common STDs. The only reason that STD rates seem to have gone up (and this is with just few diseases, most have actually declined) is that people are more willing to report them and seek treatment. The fact that the creators of these abstinence-only curriculums feel the need to lie certainly tells me that they’re pushing a different motive than child welfare. Otherwise, they would show the facts allowing teens to make an informed decision.
Furthermore, some of these programs teach gender stereotypes, especially downplaying the role women have in society. They teach that the man should be the provider of the family and that women need the protection of the man (again, see the congressional report). First off, I don’t really see why that should be in a sex education class. Second, if that isn’t a return to a Medieval mentality, I don’t know what is. Pretty retroactive if you ask me.
If these programs are inaccurate and don’t work as well as a complete and open sex education program, then why do it? Well, you get back to the Christian right’s idea of morality. I have no problem with them believing in a Biblically inspired idea of morality, except when the Christian right tries to force it on the rest of us. Just look at any of their websites (for example, the vision statement for the Christian Coalition and the about page of the Traditional Values Coalition). They want to make traditional Christian values the law in this country. Unfortunately for them, that is severely unconstitutional. I’ll go more into that on another post, but that fact is that the attempt to teach abstinence-only is simply a manifestation of the Christian right’s desire to emplace a religiously-inspired morality on the nation. Therefore, if we really want to preserve the separation of church and state, then this is just one of the intrusions on our civil liberties that we need to stop.