The Abstinence Wars

Ken AshfordHealth Care, Sex/Morality/Family Values, Women's IssuesLeave a Comment

What’s more important?  Young girls learning to have safe sex so that they don’t get pregnant and/or sick — or young girls being sexually abstinent?

Logically, these two positions are not incompatible.  Most would agree (I hope) that we would want young girls to be knowledgeable about safe sex, and then choose abstinence (until they are ready).

CensorshippregnantBut sadly, much of the religious right doesn’t see it that way.  They work under the belief that knowledge about safe sex will lead to actual practice of sex.  I don’t think there is a single study to support this, but the religious right isn’t big on science anyway.

So, via Amanda Marcotte, we have two pictures which reflect the battle-of-the-messages in the Abstinence Wars.  The first picture (on the left) shows teenagers creating T-shirts which read "Censorship got me pregnant" in response to an incident at their school.    Here’s what happened:

Copies of a high school’s student newspaper were seized by administrators because the edition contained stories about birth control and tattoos. The seizure has raised concern about possible infringement of the First Amendment.

Administrators at Oak Ridge High School went into teachers’ classrooms, desks and mailboxes to retrieve all 1,800 copies of the newspaper on Tuesday, said Wanda Grooms, a teacher who advises the staff, and Brittany Thomas, the student editor.

The Oak Leaf’s birth control article listed success rates for different methods, and said contraceptives were available from doctors and the local health department. Superintendent Tom Bailey said the article needed to be edited so that it would be acceptable to all the school.

IowablingThe second picture (at right) is the message from the other side — a billboard from Iowa’s Abstinence Mission, urging young girls to get married before they have sex.

I find it amusing that the abstinence message attempts to speak in the "hip" vernacular of teenagers (do they even know the word "bling" in Iowa?).  And it attempts to appeal to some presumed materialism they assume must exist in teenagers.  Whereas, on the other hand, the actual teenagers in the photo above actually speak in regular English, and seem to have higher ideals on their mind (censorship, health, etc.)

It should be noted that the Iowa Abstinence Mission isn’t some independent Christian group.  It is a division of the Iowa Department of Health.  And while abstinence is certainly the best method to prevent pregnancy and STDs, it’s clear that the Iowa Department of Health isn’t pushing abstinence for health reasons here.  Does anything about that billboard suggest health concerns are the chief concern?