Sunday, May 06, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #55 - Part 4

Outrage of the Week: HHS endorses failed right-wing program on teen pregnancy

The Obama administration, like the Shrub administration before it, has a program intended to reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy. As part of that, the Department of Health and Human Services maintains a list of supposedly “evidence-based” programs for teenage pregnancy prevention. Until just recently, all of those on the list were after-school programs. But sometime in April, without any notice, without any press release announcing it, HHS added an abstinence-only curriculum to the list.

The curriculum was created by an outfit called Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education, a dim-witted crew whose real-world awareness seems to have stopped at re-runs of Father Knows Best. The program, according to an analysis of it by an independent group, “contains little or no information about puberty, anatomy, sexually transmitted diseases, or sexual behavior.” Nor does it “include information about the health benefits of contraception or condoms.” It relies instead on inaccurate information and fear-based classroom exercises. As proof, here's one of those exercises:

Each student rolls a six-side die; the number that comes up corresponds to a particular consequence arising from premarital sex. Students who roll a one have contracted HIV. Roll a two, you've caught herpes. Roll a three, it's human papillomavirus, which causes genital warts and can cause cancer. A four is an unwanted pregnancy, a five means infertility, and a six represents deep emotional pain.

The program promotes heterosexual marriage as the only happy and healthy life choice, promotes grossly out-of-date gender roles and stereotypes, and entirely ignores the existence of LGBT people.

And what's more, it doesn't work. In fact, none of these abstinence-only programs work. Repeated studies have shown they don't work:

- There was a 2002 study by Advocates for Youth.
- There was a 2004 study by the staff of Rep. Henry Waxman of youngsters participating in federally funded, abstinence-only programs.
- There was a 2005 study of 12,000 adolescents which was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
- There was a 2007 study mandated by Congress.
- There was a 2008 study published in the professional journal Pediatrics.

They all reached the same conclusion, aptly summed up in the finding of that 2007 study that abstinence-only programs "had little or no impact on sexual abstinence or activity."

The teen pregnancy rate in the US has actually going down dramatically but for reasons which do have to do with education and increased availability of birth control but which have nothing to do with abstinence-only programs. In fact, the rate of teen pregnancy is highest in states that focus efforts on that sort of program.

And yet here we have the administration endorsing one that not only doesn't work but is filled with misinformation, fear-mongering, sexism, and homophobia - and doing it essentially in secret. Why? I can think of only one possible reason: to head of potential attacks from the right, and sacrificing to myths and ignorance the children who will be exposed to this crap be damned.

It's another example of what I've come to call preemptive capitulation, the practice of the Obama crowd to surrender to the right wing even before there is a fight. And preemptive capitulation and the idiocy that arises from it is always the Outrage of the Week.


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