Contraception: Nothing Fails Like Abstinence

“The acceptability of birth control has always depended on a morality that separates sex from reproduction. In the nineteenth century, when the birth control movement began, such a separation was widely considered immoral. The eventual widespread public acceptance of birth control required a major reorientation of sexual values”—Linda Gordon, The Moral Property of Women


Contraception should not be a difficult subject to approach, but obviously, religion blinds some to the realities of life such as sex and all the benefits and consequences that surround it. Under the current abstinence-only program funded by the government, teachers cannot discuss contraceptive methods except to talk about their failure rate. More than two decades of effort and millions of tax dollars focused on refraining from sexual intercourse until marriage, went up in smoke after studies showed what most innately know—abstinence programs are about as effective as no program.


Some believe the abstinence-only programs could attain their goals, despite numerous studies showing most Americans have sexual intercourse before marrying. With persuasion from the “religious lobby” in national decision-making, abstaining from sex became part of nationwide political talk track, but research showed it was nothing but talk. After more than 20 years and millions of dollars focused on abstinence from sexual intercourse until marriage, the vaunted religion-fueled programs turned out as a waste of money. Today’s realty shows that by the sophomore year, 16 percent of high school students have had four or more sexual partners and by graduation, two thirds of teens are sexually active. Selective memory and fantasy drive most religion-based efforts despite statistics showing the programs having a neutral impact at best.

The conservative Christian view on teen premarital sex is simple and straightforward. It is wrong and sinful. And the unyielding nature of this approach explains why such Christians lobby incessantly against public school sex education that teaches contraception, despite all the studies now demonstrating that "abstinence-only" programs serve not to decrease but increase the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STD).

For example, a September 2009 study in the Sexuality Research and Social Policy Journal reported that most abstinence programs fail to delay sexual initiation, while more comprehensive programs show a positive impact, including postponing sexual activity and increasing contraceptive use. Complementing these findings is a January 2007 study published in the American Journal of Public Health which concluded that declining teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. were primarily attributable to improved contraception (and not to abstinence-only education).

This is an excerpt from the soon to be published "The 80% Solution: Getting Christians to Behave as Such." Since I am in the final editing phase and unbelievably "birth-control" is an issue in the GOP nomination process only stresses that "The Inquisition" is never far away. The Republican and Christian obsession with sex is mind boggling. Of course, so is their ignorance of their own actions.

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Comment by Donald R Barbera on February 23, 2012 at 4:19am
Sex is a normal part of life and legislating morality has always been dangerous. How easily the lessons of history are forgotten.
Comment by Reason Being on February 22, 2012 at 6:32pm

Great post.  I used to live in the South and was a high school teacher.  The school had an evangelical group that preached abstinence.  They took a pledge and all that was going great until two years in a row, two different members of the group became in my limited experience with abstinence programs it didn't seem to work.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on February 22, 2012 at 3:30pm
The interesting thing is that teen pregnancy in the US is at an all-time low. Abortion? No. Birth control. They finally stopped listening to BS from guys my age. The highest birth rates are now between age 21-39! It has also grown in the 40 and above group. oh, I forgot to mention that even though teen pregnancy is at an all-time low, the US is not even in the top 10 when comparing other comparable democracies. We've got a long way to go, but getting rid og faith-based sexual education would be a good start since recent studies show what we all know--placing a Bible between your knees doesn't work. Sorry for the sick humor, but I couldn't resist after the asshole comment by Santorum's sugar daddy.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on February 22, 2012 at 10:24am

It seems that these are old people who have forgotten their youth. No one wants their children prematurely involved with sex, but avoiding mention of it leaves children carelessly in the dark about things they should know. Hormones and peers act without parental consent. It only takes once to be thrust into a world of tough decisions and shattered dreams. Just as no one wants their children to have sex before ready and even then we don't want to know because to us they are our little boys and girls, but the reality is by then they belong to their peers, society and hormones. You can't keep them on the farm forever. Abortion is something no one wants. People don't get abortions because it is something they want. They get them for a variety of reasons, but none of the reasons include a desire to do so. Usually it is an act of desperation. Illegal abortion kills thousands of women around the world every year, but it is not because it is desireable. At best it is a distasteful, but necessary service in the eyes of most women seeking abortion. For me, religion made everything complicated with nonsensical ideas about nearly everything. I know that I reasoned myself into sexual activity understanding that thinking about the act was just as bad as doing it. So, the pragmatic thing for me to do since I was going to burn in hell for thinking about, I figured I might as well make the punishment fit the crime. No sense in going to jail an accessory to the fact.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on February 21, 2012 at 9:20am
Sentient: Are you familiar with "Quiver Full Theology?" It is the evangelical clone of "The Stepford Wives." Albert Mohler, now the SBC president, speaks of it constantly. Bottom line is that is turns women into baby machines and has an underlying bonus of producing more white babies. It is disgusting, but I can't do it justice in a few lines. Go out on the web and check it out. It is male perversion at its beastly best.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on February 21, 2012 at 7:47am
Absolutely! I was there and experienced first hand what you are talking about. All I thought of was sex, especially since it was forbidden. They made it even more irresistable.
Comment by Loren Miller on February 21, 2012 at 6:24am

Abstinence-only sex education reflects the rest of the religious malarkey kids are taught, in that it is idealistic nonsense unsupported by any facts. In that regard, it is utterly orthodox and unsurprising. The obvious problem is that it is in no way pragmatic or functional. It does not account for child or youth psychology, peer pressure or emotional and hormonal pressure that flows through most teens at a mile a minute. Yet the church insists on it because ideals are what the church is about and pragmatism is not a consideration.

This is one more irrationality in a series of such, and so long as people cling to their irrational thought patterns, the problem will continue. The most we can do is hold a mirror up to their faces in the hope that they can see these patterns and the harm they are causing, while at the same time, pushing for REAL sex education in our schools.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on February 20, 2012 at 11:32pm
Michael, I was bur, and baptized Catholic an absolute horror fr an inquisitive mind. However, I discovered your idea early when it came to sex. We had confession and I figured out that my chances of dying at an early age were truly insignificant. As long as I could make it to confession without getting hit by a bus, everything was cool of course, I'm sure that my practice was not accepted, but it worked for me and thousands of others. A new study just released in January shows l youth to be just as sexually active as their secular counterparts.
Comment by Michael OL on February 20, 2012 at 10:20pm

I do wonder whether the fundamentalists themselves "abstained" when they were teens; or if, like St. Augustine, they lived like unbridled libertines while young, only to have their "epiphany" conveniently in middle-age.

But the overall point is that fundamentalist aversion to sex is not merely about kids, teens and youth becoming "prematurely" sexually active; it's to curb all sex unconnected with reproduction.  If their message were to have been strictly limited to teen sex, it might have resonated with the less-extreme social movements which while not fundamentalist, are still uncomfortable with the idea of sexually-active kids.  Instead, the fundamentalist creed is rabidly anti-sexual in entirety.  And while this is obvious to the atheist community, it begs wider dissemination amongst moderate religionists.

The Puritan aversion to pleasure is especially ironic, foremost for Calvinist Puritans.  In their world view, human deeds are utterly insignificant towards "salvation", and all humans are incorrigibly evil.  OK, that's pretty grim, but then why bother with avoiding pleasures?  If we're so evil anyway, then why not go all the way?  Why bother trying to "be good"?  Oh wait... logic and religion... my bad....

Comment by Donald R Barbera on February 20, 2012 at 7:51pm
Michael, no one abstains from sex despite thinking to the contrary. Roman Catholics should be experts with the celibacy and their opposition to birth control. The problem for them is carrying out the will of an organization that apologized to one of the fathers of science more than 300 years after the fact. The world can't wait three hundred years for the Catholic Church to enter the 19th century.

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