Friday, July 15, 2005

Attention Board of Education!

Doctors back teen birth control, oppose abstinence only:
In an article in the current journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, its committee on adolescence concludes that while pediatricians should encourage adolescents to postpone sexual activity, they should also make sure they have access to contraceptives, including emergency contraception.

The recommendation flies in the face of the abstinence-only approach being pushed by the Bush administration and religious groups [and the Kansas Board of Ed -TfK]. And dramatically, the article abandoned the academy’s former policy that called abstinence counseling “an important role for all pediatricians.”


“Because there isn’t any evidence that that message is effective,” said Dr. Scott Spear, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and chairman of the national medical committee of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“As scientists, we’re saying we don’t want politics to trump what’s healthy and safe for young people.”
Long time readers know I've made some strong statements about this. There're the studies showing that virginity pledges don't reduce STDs (and increase rates of oral and anal sex). Then there was the time I swore to mail out mean fliers about any Board member who voted for abstinence only.

The issue is not whether to teach abstinence. My high school health teacher was a big advocate of masturbation, pointing out that, for the most part, it's the safest form of sex. We all felt sort of awkward about it, but it was abstinence she was talking about. She also used dildos to show us how to put on condoms, and models of the female genitalia to show how the female condom and other female operated contraception works. She made it very clear that there's no such thing as safe sex, only safer sex.

That's valuable for two reasons.

First, understanding that it's safer means that you are more careful and cautious when you reach a level of maturity when sex is appropriate.

Second, it emphasizes that you shouldn't have sex before you reach that stage. The safest form of sex between two people is between those who know and trust each other, using one or more forms of contraception. But there's still a danger, and comprehensive sex education teaches that abstinence is the only way to be safe.