Who are you sleeping with tonight?
If you’re single and between the ages of 19 and 29, the government wants you to know you should be by yourself. According to USA Today, the government is expanding its abstinence-only sex education program to reach not only adolescents, but also adults within this demographic. But here’s the kicker: this new focus makes “millions of dollars in federal money available to states under revised federal grant guidelines for 2007.”
Our tax dollars are going to be spent to tell adults what they should and should not do with each other in bed. I’m so glad I pay the feds thousands of dollars per year to support programs like this, that have had such great success among the malleable minds of America’s youth (yes, I meant to be that sarcastic).
Under these revised guidelines, which the government is calling a reminder to states that these programs (the only sex education curriculum approved by the Bush administration) do not only have to focus on youth, states are urged "to identify groups… most likely to bear children out-of-wedlock, targeting adolescents and/or adults within the 12- through 29-year-old age range."
The goal of this revision, it seems, is not to prevent the spread of AIDS or other STDs, but to make sure there are fewer babies born out of wedlock. The article quotes Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services, as saying the revision is aimed at 19- to 29-year-olds because more unmarried women in that age group are having children.
"The message is 'It's better to wait until you're married to bear or father children,'" Horn said. "The only 100% effective way of getting there is abstinence."
Let me get this straight: first the government wants to tell us when it’s okay to have sex and then it wants to tell us when it’s okay to have kids. What’s next? A list of acceptable positions?
I think this line of thought is ridiculous and another example of government policy trying to regulate morality for several reasons. First of all, marriage is not that all-holy institution it used to be. The Census Bureau recently reported married couples are now the minority in America, albeit a slight minority. The reason for the decline? Increased numbers of younger couples cohabitating instead of tying the knot, and often waiting longer to do so when they feel they’re ready.
Second, marriage is not a guarantee of a picture perfect life with a mom and a dad that lasts forever. Though the divorce rate is going down, it’s not because marriages are lasting longer, but because of this increase in cohabitation rates. Yes, the ideal situation is for a child to be raised by two parents, but the reality is that’s no longer the standard in our society. The nuclear family has had to make room for other types of families just as functional and healthy in which to raise a child.
Third, you’re talking to adults, not children. The government has no business telling me or anyone else what they can and cannot do with another consenting adult in their bedroom, or how to live our lives for that matter. USA Today quotes James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that supports sex education, who said, "They've stepped over the line of common sense. To be preaching abstinence when 90% of people are having sex is in essence to lose touch with reality. It's an ideological campaign. It has nothing to do with public health." Amen to that.
Finally, the abstinence-only strategy is an unrealistic ideal that has not worked among the young audiences it’s meant to reach. Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, has commented that “in addition to there being no evidence that abstinence-only sex ed works, there is no reason to believe that this form of sex education is even on the same planet as those it is intended to reach.”
Caplan went on to point out STDs are spreading rapidly among young people, and, according to a recent study, no less so among teens who take virginity pledges as part of abstinence-only sex education, as they are less likely to use contraception or protection when they become sexually active.
He went on to say, “There may be a sillier strategy for dealing with sex among teens than promoting the choice of ‘abstinence-only-until-marriage,’ but I am not quite sure what it is. Not only is such an approach contradicted by everything that medicine and science know about teens and sex, but it flies directly in the face of everything all ordinary Americans know about teens and sex.”
And the government expects this program to be successful with adults? Yeah, good luck with that one.