Saturday, April 14, 2007

Abstinence-Only Education Is Unrealistic

Finally, the conservative government may begin to realize that kids are having sex, and need to be properly guided – as engagers, not abstainers.

A Congress-requested report was released yesterday, and reveals that kids who spend time in abstinence only programming are just as likely to have sex, as those who do not take part in these this type of government-funded teaching.

Like other quick-fix solutions – such as the “Just Say No” drug campaign, which the Reaganites assured the public that drug addiction would be easy to kick with a simple no…as opposed to specialized therapeutic rehabilitation methods (that would cost too much money) – the U.S. decided back in 1996 to dramatically cut its government funding for programs to focus on issues such as pregnancy, abuse, STDs, and so on. Instead of dealing with the fact that our young people are having sex and should be given proper advice on safe sex, condom and the pill usage, abortion or pregnancy options, and peer pressure or other emotional responses to having sex.

In fact, Title V of the Social Security Act, which is the Maternal and Child Health Program, was severely slashed in the early ’80s. The programming was originally set up to help young, low-income women have access to prenatal and postnatal care.

No programming means more problems. And more problems for women means the perpetuation of misogynist legislators who think that women's lives can be decided by the stroke of their pen.

Soon after the slash in aid for Title V, the U.S. infant mortality rate plunged from sixth place among 20 industrialized nations, to LAST place.

And when a child is not cared for, they can suffer major physical and mental health later in life, which of course means more fiscal responsibility for the government (but they can’t possibly think that far down the line, can they? No. Not if it is an election year, or oil to cap).

However, while these cuts were going away for those who needed it, a shift towards abstinence was taking place. According to the report, “the enactment of Title V, Section 510 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 significantly increased the funding and prominence of abstinence education as an approach to promote sexual abstinence and healthy teen behavior.”

Our government puts aside about $176 million each year to ensure that these kids are told NOT how to engage safely, but rather, to NOT engage at all.

But clearly, this reallocation of funds is more hurtful than helpful, as so many more lives are affected by not having access to care. We cannot JUST SAY NO and hope that kids will just turn off their emotions or desires. It is an unrealistic and scary ideology that our government consistently uses to blanket social problems.

This report is vital to our future, as young women and men ought to be able to feel comfortable knowing that they are safely having sex – since they are going to do it anyway – and feel comfortable coming forward to adults with questions.

If not, we may find that a trickle-down effect will continue.

In example, if a young couple does not have access to contraceptives, but decides to engage in sex -- and then gets pregnant -- they may be more likely to drop out, or get kicked out of school; they may attempt to live on their own but could struggle with bills, getting food for the baby’s belly (as well as their own). This lifestyle may lead to abuse – mental or physical between the couple – as well as drug or alcohol addiction to numb the pain of losing their childhood. One of the parents may be arrested. One may just leave. The child will suffer the same abuses, and one day may lash out in his/her own life. The child could be sentenced to juvenile detention, and upon release get pregnant.

The cycle will continue if we don’t offer aid.

And this aid could come from federal monies that are funneled into safe-sex classes, prophylactic distribution, young family housing, daycare in high schools, and more.