Bristol Palin on abstinence: What’s not to like?

It looks like good news:  Bristol Palin says that abstinence only for teenagers  is not  realistic.   Anecdote meets the facts and they agree! 

That’s another blow against the policy advocated by US political conservatives like her mother.   Sarah Palin  ‘oppos[d] programs that teach teenagers anything about contraception. “The explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support,” she said in answering a questionnaire from the conservative Eagle Forum during her 2006 gubernatorial race. ‘

But what’s not to like is that Bristol Palin doesn’t seem to see having sex as a matter of choice.  Opposing abstinence-only education doesn’t mean giving up on  abstinence.  In fact,  there’ s been evidence available  for decades now that ‘explicit sex education’  programs, particularly combined with discussions of health and values and access to medical treatment, can raise the average age of sexual relationships, along with lowering  pregnancy rates and disease rates. 

 Behind the scenes in this discussion, then, appears to be  another conservative fallacy:  inferring from someone’s opposing a restriction to their endorsing what’s being restricted (or endorsing the subject of the restricted discourse).  Here are two instances:  If you are pro-choice, then you are pro-abortion.  (False!)  And:  if you oppose abstinence only education, then you endorse teen promiscuity.  (False!) 

In short, B Palin’s thought may be just an instance of this fallacy:  abstinence only education fails people like me, so teens are promiscuous.  And such a thought might be one of the sad results of her education. 

OR she’s launching a gigantic excuse.  “Hey, the sex wasn’t my choice and so the pregnancy was not my fault, given my mother’s views.”   And how could she have any better understanding?

On a Completely Different Note: Kate Moss is a Woman Now.

New York Magazine quotes her as announcing ““I am a woman now. It’s true. No, honestly, I’ve never worn a bra in my life. Ever. It’s so awful, even my friends are phoning me up and saying: ‘Are you pregnant?’ And I’m like: ‘No! I just put on a couple of pounds, and they went in the right place.’ Isn’t that weird? And how perfect for lingerie. Now I can fill a B-cup.”

The London Paper Reports that ‘The supermodel, famous for her “heroin chic” skeletal frame, has shown off her “real” body in a set of raunchy new pictures, which appear to be free of airbrushing.’

So, let’s have a look at the fattie, shall we? yes let’s:

SO, what have we learnt? About Womanhood? About the value of a bra size? About what counts as extra weight?

The mind boggles.

US House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform December 2004: more on the clown.

Lest you think me (simply) a mean-spirited clown-hater, I present to you a link to the December 2004 US Committee on Government Reform–Minority Staff Special Investigations Division report “The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs”.

At the request of Rep. Henry Waxman, this report is a comprehensive evaluation
of the content of the curricula used in federally funded abstinence-only education
programs.18  It is based on a review of the most popular abstinence-only curricula
used by grantees in the SPRANS program.

To conduct this evaluation, the Special Investigations Division obtained from the
Health Resources and Services Administration the program summaries of the 100
organizations that received SPRANS abstinence funding during fiscal year
2003.19  Each summary contains a proposal listing the curricula that the program
intends to use.  The Special Investigations Division then acquired each curriculum
that was listed by at least five funding recipients.20  Thirteen curricula met this
criterion (Table 1).

The 13 curricula were reviewed for scientific accuracy.  For several curricula with
a separate teacher’s guide, both the student and teacher manuals were included.
The review was intended to provide an overall assessment of the accuracy of the
curricula, not to identify all potential errors.

I had *such* trouble picking a short list of favourites. But I’ve managed to trim my list to these four excerpts, which I find particularly illustrative:

  • Several curricula cite an erroneous 1993 study of condom effectiveness that has
    been discredited by federal health officials.  The 1993 study, by Dr. Susan Weller,
    looked at a variety of condom effectiveness studies and concluded that condoms
    reduce HIV transmission by 69%. […] The Department [of Health and Human Services] cited numerous methodological problems, including the mixing of data on consistent condom use with data on inconsistent condom use, and found that Dr. Weller’s calculation of a 69% effectiveness rate was based on
    “serious error.” […] Despite these findings, several curricula refer approvingly to the Weller study. […](One) curriculum that cites Dr. Weller’s data claims:  “In heterosexual sex, condoms fail to prevent HIV
    approximately 31% of the time.”
  • [One] curriculum states, “Sterility:  Studies show that five to ten percent of
    women will never again be pregnant after having a legal abortion.”  In
    fact, obstetrics textbooks teach that “[f]ertility is not altered by an elective
  • Under the heading “Abstinence-Only Curricula Treat Stereotypes about Girls and
    Boys as Scientific Fact”:  A third curriculum depicts emotions as limiting girls’ ability to focus.  It states:
    “Generally, guys are able to focus better on one activity at a time and may not
    connect feelings with actions.  Girls access both sides of the brain at once, so they
    often experience feelings and emotions as part of every situation.”
  • One curriculum presents data on HIV exposure in a misleading and confusing
    way.  The curriculum uses data from a CDC chart originally titled “HIV infection
    cases in adolescents and adults under age 25, by sex and exposure category.”94
    The original CDC chart looks at all people with HIV under 25 and categorizes them by reported route of exposure, such as heterosexual sex or intravenous drug
    use.  But the curriculum misleadingly puts the CDC data in a new chart called
    “Percent HIV Infected” and scrambles the CDC data in a way that suggests
    greatly exaggerated HIV rates among teenagers.  For example, where the CDC
    chart showed that 41% of female teens with HIV reportedly acquired it through
    heterosexual contact, the curriculum’s chart suggests that 41% of heterosexual
    female teens have HIV.95  It similarly implies that 50% of homosexual male teens
    have HIV.96

Incredible. Truly incredible. (Sorry for the formatting niggles.)

Send Out the Clowns!

We’ve had a nice (and informative!) discussion about sex education in Britain this week. But as is so often true, all roads lead back to the clown. You might remember the previous post that was devoted to Derek Dye, the abstinence-only clown. As you’ll recall, Derek juggles machetes, tells Ohio schoolchildren that premarital sex will make attainment of their dreams impossible, and has received US federal funding to the tune of $800,000.

To date, $1.5 billion of federal funding has gone to abstinence-only “education” like that from Derek.

The Obama administration is currently hammering out a budget for fiscal year 2010, and pressure is mounting for him to drop funding for abstinence-only education. Apparently Derek Dye is running scared. Let’s help chase the clown out. (It’s an inarticulate way to put it, I know. But I sort of dislike clowns in general, so I like the mental image of an angry mob chasing the clown out of town with torches and pitchforks.) Follow this link to send an email to President Obama, encouraging him to ‘zero out’ federal funding for abstinence-only programs. Like a metaphorical hormonal/barrier method double-up, you can also increase your (your children’s) protection against uninformative clowns by writing both to Obama, and to your congressperson.