The Abstinence Teacher (2003)
Oh, that way madness lies; let me shun that.
William Shakespeare, King Lear
From the Washington Post (12-2-04) -- "Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says" by Ceci Connolly:
Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," a congressional staff analysis has found.
Those and other assertions are examples of the "false, misleading, or distorted information" in the programs' teaching materials, said the analysis, released yesterday, which reviewed the curricula of more than a dozen projects aimed at preventing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.
In providing nearly $170 million next year to fund groups that teach abstinence only, the Bush administration, with backing from the Republican Congress, is investing heavily in a just-say-no strategy for teenagers and sex. But youngsters taking the courses frequently receive medically inaccurate or misleading information, often in direct contradiction to the findings of government scientists, said the report, by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), a critic of the administration who has long argued for comprehensive sex education.
Among the misconceptions cited by Waxman's investigators:
• A 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person."
• HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears.
• Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.
One curriculum, called "Me, My World, My Future," teaches that women who have an abortion "are more prone to suicide" and that as many as 10 percent of them become sterile. This contradicts the 2001 edition of a standard obstetrics textbook that says fertility is not affected by elective abortion, the Waxman report said.
From CNN.com (7-5-05) -- "Pediatricians' Group: Abstinence Not Enough":
A leading group of pediatricians says teenagers need access to birth control and emergency contraception, not the abstinence-only approach to sex education favored by religious groups and President Bush.
"Even though there is great enthusiasm in some circles for abstinence-only interventions, the evidence does not support abstinence-only interventions as the best way to keep young people from unintended pregnancy," said Dr. Jonathan Klein, chairman of the academy committee that wrote the new recommendations.
Teaching abstinence but not birth control makes it more likely that once teenagers initiate sexual activity they will have unsafe sex and contract sexually transmitted diseases, said Dr. S. Paige Hertweck, a pediatric obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Louisville who provided advice for the report.
From MSNBC (2-1-05) -- "Teen Sex Increased After Abstinence Program":
Abstinence-only sex education programs, a major plank in President George W. Bush's education plan, have had no impact on teenagers' behavior in his home state of Texas, according to a new study.
Despite taking courses emphasizing abstinence-only themes, teenagers in 29 high schools became increasingly sexually active, mirroring the overall state trends, according to the study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University.
“We didn't see any strong indications that these programs were having an impact in the direction desired,” said Dr. Buzz Pruitt, who directed the study.
And, finally, from the Union of Concerned Scientists:
The fact that the Bush administration ignores the scientific evidence, troubling though that is, is not the primary concern of this report. Rather, it is the fact that the Bush administration distorted science-based performance measures to test whether abstinence-only programs were proving effective, such as charting the birth rate of female program participants. In place of such established measures, the Bush administration has required the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to track only participants' program attendance and attitudes, measures designed to obscure the lack of efficacy of abstinence-only programs.
In addition to distorting performance measures, the Bush administration has suppressed other information at odds with its preferred policies. At the behest of higher-ups in the Bush administration, according to a source inside the CDC, the agency was forced to discontinue a project called “Programs that Work,” which identified sex education programs found to be effective in scientific studies. All five of the programs identified in 2002 involved comprehensive sex education for teenagers and none were abstinence-only programs. In ending the project, the CDC removed all information about these programs from its website.
One scientist, recently departed from a high-ranking position at the CDC, recounts that, on one occasion, even top staff scientists at the agency were required by the administration to attend a day-long session purportedly devoted to the “science of abstinence.” As this source puts it, “out of the entire session, conducted by a nonscientist, the only thing resembling science was one study reportedly in progress and another not even begun.” Despite the absence of supporting data, this source and others contend, CDC scientists were regularly reminded to push the administration's abstinence-only stance. As he puts it, “The effect was very chilling.”
Just say no to sex, kids, and curb those hormonal urges -- although you won't have access (or even hear your "abstinence teacher" explain) options like birth control or abortion. And, by the way, with the nomination of John Roberts to SCOTUS, that second option may soon only be available in back alleys via the black market.
But, you know, some people -- like those who can veto congressional bills -- don't have to control their impulses and bloodlust for violence, especially torture. Moreover, these administrative culture of lifers want photos of American troops and Iraqi guards who chose not to "abstain" from rape, sodomy, and torture aborted from public view. From the DailyKos (7-22-05) courtesy of digby and this article from Reuters:
The White House on Thursday threatened to veto a massive Senate bill for $442 billion in next year's defense programs if it moves to regulate the Pentagon's treatment of detainees or sets up a commission to investigate operations at Guantanamo Bay prison and elsewhere.
The Bush administration, under fire for the indefinite detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and questions over whether its policies led to horrendous abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, put lawmakers on notice it did not want them legislating on the matter.
So, kids, be sure to say no to sex -- because all ex post facto remedies may soon be legally closed if you don't. Meanwhile, BushCo, not constrained by an abstinence teacher or congressional wrist slaps, and never given to questioning one's gut instincts over moral qualms or ethical problems, does not believe in shunning. It insists on its God-given right to censor photographic evidence and to indefinitely detain and abuse "enemy combatants" -- and even sodomize young boys -- who, apparently, just "hate our freedoms."
Lear knew better -- but history will record the Bush years as a time of lies and unshunned madness.