Friday, April 11, 2008

Shouldn't Results Matter?: How the Right Goes Wrong

How the Christian Right Goes Wrong is a must-read for anyone who has ever struggled to explain to a conservative why abstinence-only education and limiting family planning options are bad ideas. This article by pro-choice author Cristina Page is dense with information about how such policies, which the anti-choice movement has aggressively pursued in the name of decreasing the number of abortions, are counterproductive. Here's a taste:
New research reveals that female students in programs that promote abstinence exclusively are more likely to get pregnant than those in programs that teach about the full range of contraceptives as well as abstinence. The news, published in the April issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, is just the latest proof that the $1.5 billion dollar “just say no to sex” experiment on our teens has failed...Earlier findings by researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities revealed that teens taking part in virginity pledge programs (they pledge to stay virgins until marriage) are more likely than their non-pledging peers to engage in risky unprotected sex.
Page goes on to discuss how different states' "mandatory delay policies" have substantially increased the number of second trimester abortions. She also notes that the countries with the lowest abortion rates are those with the strongest pro-choice policies.

There is only one statement in Page's article with which I do not fully agree:
These statistics infuriate the abstinence-until-marriage proponents. Their hope is that, by keeping teens in the dark about protection, ignorance will somehow lead to temperance.
From what I saw while working in a public school system which refused to provide students with any discussion of sexuality except for mandatory "virginity pledges," the hope is not that the lack of information will lead to temperance, but rather that it will ensure punishment for those young people women who do have sex.

6 comments:

Lindsay said...

Page's book How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America is good as well; I just finished it a few weeks ago.

It convincingly makes the case that pro-life groups aren't so much anti-abortion as they are anti-sex, in particular any sex that isn't directly for procreation. Their movement hoodwinks any people who may think abortions are bad but are for sex education and birth control, hiding the real issues they're working against. Or, in the case of Plan B, turning birth control into an abortion. The misinformation they spew is ridiculous.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Lindsay. It sounds like a useful book, one which will help pro-choice women explain their positions, even when surprised by arguments designed to obscure the real issues in the debate.

judgesnineteen said...

re: punishment for those who do have sex, I totally agree. It kinda made my head explode when Obama made a reference to that kind of thinking that I understood right away, and conservatives went "omg Obama says children are a punishment he hates children!!!"

La Pobre Habladora said...

Yeah, I've been considering writing a post on that - the reaction from the right surprised me too, and made me think that I have perhaps been speaking in jargon too much when talking to people outside of my liberal little community. No one who has spent time thinking about how difficult we make life for young, unwed mothers would have misunderstood Obama's comments. Yet, perhaps we should be explaining ourselves better.

Lindsay said...

The book is pretty good - my one critique is that she paints all pro-life people with one big brush stroke - same goals, same motivations, etc. Issues are waaaay more nuanced that that, but for her argument, it's easier to just portray all pro-life advocates in the same way as some of the big name groups.

Easier for her argument, but disappointing because it doesn't show the complexity of the situation.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Thanks for the heads-up, and I will certainly look out for that as I read. Page's article, though, is really useful in that it explores the arguments that most pro-choicers take for granted, arguments that are new to the anti-choicers and should be clearly explained rather than just reduced to sound-bites. I'd really like to find a site or book that points to the data that supports the arguments I've come to take for granted, and I'm hoping Page's book is the volume I've been wanting.