Ever since its entry into public education in the early 1990s, Planned Parenthood (PP), the leading advocate of “comprehensive sex education”—a morally void approach, which began in the 1960s under the leadership of former PP medical director, Dr. Mary Calderone—has condemned abstinence-centered education as ineffective, and even dangerous. Planned Parenthood, which continues to lobby state legislatures and local school boards, distributes brochures claiming:
Rigorous research shows that abstinence-only programs do not delay the initiation of sexual activity, they do not cause sexually active teens to ‘return’ to abstinence, and they do not decrease the number of sexual partners among young people. Abstinence-only programs do not reduce the number of teen pregnancies…. These programs do nothing to keep young people safe.
In their ongoing effort to portray proponents of abstinence-centered education as backwoods moralizers who are ignorant of the facts, Planned Parenthood has repeatedly argued that “Every reputable sexuality education organization in the United States, as well as prominent health organizations like the American Medical Association, has denounced abstinence-only education programs and supported comprehensive sex education” (Planned Parenthood brochure).
I imagine the folks over at Planned Parenthood are desperately trying to figure how they can best spin the latest results from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), released last month. According to a 2006–2008 survey commissioned by the CDC to the National Center for Health Statistics, sexual activity among teens has dropped dramatically. According to the study, 68 % of boys and 67 % of girls (age 15 to17) have never had sexual intercourse. This information corroborates another CDC report released just last week showing that teen birth rates have reached their “lowest levels in nearly 70 years” following a 37 % reduction since abstinence education began (CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, “Vital Signs: Teen Pregnancy—United States, 1991—2009,” April 5, 2011).
Amazingly, the mainstream media and PP have been noticeably silent about the report. I did however find one creative journalist, writing for the “venerable” SMU Daily Mustang who haphazardly declares that the decrease in teen pregnancy is “due in large part to the economic downturn.” Oh sure, that makes sense. Teens probably whip out their checkbook during foreplay, discover they’re broke and say, “I’d better wait; I ain’t got no money!” I know that was a little snarky—but seriously?!
As my good friend, Dan Bailey, executive director of Just Say YES states, “This report challenges the theory that anti drug and alcohol programs can change teen behavior but for sex education programs, just give them a condom.” He adds: “Even in the midst of our sexually saturated society, teens are choosing to avoid sexual activity. As educators, parents and mentors, we should be providing resources and messages that promote this positive trend.”
Another national survey in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indentifies what may be the most significant contribution of abstinence education: it fosters increased communication with parents on the subject. The report states:
Adolescent exposure to specific topics related to sex and abstinence in a class or program was strongly associated with higher adolescent-reported communication levels with parents about those topics…. In general, our findings indicate that adolescent attitudes about sex and abstinence are more subject to influence from parents than to messages about sex and abstinence delivered in the context of classes or programs. However, adolescent receipt of information about sex, abstinence, and sexual values in a class or program was associated with increased levels of adolescent communication about sex and abstinence with parents… (National Survey of Adolescents and Their Parents: Attitudes and Opinions about Sex and Abstinence, February 26, 2009, Prepared for Family and Youth Services Bureau Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
In short, parents (and not the state) remain the most influential factor in shaping their teen’s values and choices and abstinence-centered education stimulates the conversations that most parents and teens otherwise tend to avoid.
That’s the good news! Now the bad news: Despite the dramatic decrease in teen pregnancy, out-of-wedlock birthrates have reached record levels among adults. Forty-one percent of children were born out of wedlock in 2008! This number has increased every year since 1970, bringing roughly one million children into fatherless homes each year hence. This represents a fourfold increase in out-of-wedlock births since 1970, a figure that remained relatively stable (around 5%) for centuries until the 1960s. Historically, teenage mothers were the greatest source of out of wedlock births. Today however, 60 percent of out-of-wedlock births are to women between 20 and 29 and the remaining 17 percent are to women over 30. The fact is, more people are choosing to bear children without marriage.
Given the overwhelming and indisputable social research linking family dissolution and single-parenthood with increased crime, child poverty, economic inequality, and substance abuse, this is a disastrous societal trend proven throughout history to correlate with cultural demise (see J. D. Unwin, P. Sorokin). It begs the question, “What is happening here?” How can we be experiencing such dramatic reductions in premarital teen sexual activity while adults are going in the opposite direction?
In essence, while we are succeeding in getting kids to make wiser choices when it comes to sexual activity, our culture continues to disassociate sex and child rearing from marriage. Marriage remains an ideal but a greatly diminished ideal, which more and more people feel is no longer necessary for sex or parenting. Furthermore, if marriage is no longer linked to procreation, limited to one man and one woman, then what is marriage? Marriage has become a loose and voluntary compact, thereby losing its social, moral, and economic qualities essential to a healthy society. Beginning with the divorce revolution to its radical redefinition, marriage—stripped of it social force and support—is becoming meaningless.
Finally, the recovery of cultural values that exalt marriage and the natural family will not occur in the legislature or courts but in the church. It is in the daily life and practice of the church that marriage and family must be modeled first. This means that Christian husbands and wives must submit to one another, cease being selfish, and stop sinning by abandoning their marriages! And pastors and elders must stop being cowardly when the situation demands intervention and/or church discipline.
© 2011 by S. Michael Craven Permission granted for non-commercial use.
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