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A word to Bachmann — on pregnancy prevention that works

A couple of weeks ago, in a speech on the House floor in which she railed against school-based health clinics, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., claimed that “[t]he greatest, kindest, most compassionate gift we could give to our young people — whether it’s young girls or young boys — is to teach them and tell them the travesty that they can encounter with early onset of sexual activity.”

Actually, the greatest and kindest gift we could give our young people (well, at least in regard to their sexual education) would be a comprehensive sex-education program — one that, yes, promotes abstinence and explains the risks of sexually transmitted diseases but that also discusses contraception options.

In other words, a program that acknowledges the reality that many teens are going to be sexually active.

For, according to a large, new review from The Cochrane Collaboration, such multifaceted intervention programs are the most likely to reduce unintended pregnancies.

(The highly-regarded Cochrane Collaboration is an international nonprofit organization that looks at all the research on a particular health topic, throws out poorly designed studies, and then systematically draws a conclusion based only on the evidence that’s left. This current review examined 41 randomized, controlled studies from primarily developed countries, such as the United States, Italy, Canada and Great Britain. The studies included more than 95,000 students, aged between 9 and 19, from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds.)

Reducing unintended pregnancies would also reduce abortions (a health outcome goal that everybody, I believe, shares with Rep. Bachmann). For as the authors of this Cochrane review point out, 9 percent of American teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 become pregnant each year — and about half those pregnancies end in abortion.

To read the full review, you’ll need to get yourself to a library that subscribes to The Cochrane Library. But you can read a summary here.

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 10/12/2009 - 11:49 am.

    Great piece Susan, but Michele Bachmann is impervious to truth and facts.

  2. Submitted by Lyn Crosby on 10/12/2009 - 11:56 am.

    Ya, just tell them not to have sex, that’ll do it. NOT!

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/12/2009 - 12:04 pm.

    “All interventions including education, contraception education and promotion, and combinations of education and contraception promotion, reduced (at a slightly significant level) unintended pregnancy over the medium term and long term follow up period. Results for behavioural [sic](secondary) outcomes were inconsistent across trials.”

    All intervention work to some extent. All.

    If adults were united in their message to kids, abstinence works as well as anything else.

    Some kids will always buck authority, especially where natural sexual urges are concerned. But teen pregnancy rates didn’t explode until the 1960’s…oddly enough during the period we refer to as “the sexual revolution”.

    Passing out condoms and birth control pills will keep some girls from getting pregnant; no argument.

    But, we’re already passing them out like candy, and according to the report, 9% of teen girls are *still* getting pregnant.

    Let’s face it. We are a collection of adults that are more concerned with our own needs and wants (untrammeled freedom to have sex at every opportunity) than we are about the best interests of our kids.

    We don’t want to reduce the open expression of sexuality in our kids if it means we have to reduce it’s prevalence in our society.

    In the end, it is the effect of a moral and scruple free existence.

  4. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 10/12/2009 - 03:35 pm.

    This may be news to a modern conservative, but not only is it true that the world’s quite a bit different place than it was in the fifties, but we don’t want that world back.

    It’s a fair bet that even if there were fewer teen pregnancies on the record, at that time such a thing was so shameful many of the situations were dealt with – or perhaps even “dealt with” – quietly. And even if the pregnancy rate was lower, that came at a cost. Americans were more homogeneous and followed stricter, more regulated paths through life with fewer choices and earlier marriage. Today, people don’t necessarily get married, buy a house in the suburbs, and raise 2.3 kids like they did in the fifties, and I for one am glad for it. The paths of peoples’ lives are increasingly diverse and free, and in such a world expecting people to take a puritanical approach towards sex is no only unrealistic, but unnecessary and pointlessly miserable. Adults know that safely practiced sex can be one of the great joys of life.

    You can’t simultaneously “pass out condoms like candy” and then teach abstinence-only education. You can’t expect condoms to work unless you teach how to use them; you can’t expect girls to be on birth control unless you foster an environment where they are comfortable talking about the matter with their parents and doctor. And it’s a fact that the most backwards… er, the states that teach abstinence at the highest rates have the highest teen pregnancy rates. (I can’t help but mention at this point that for every conservative scheme, there’s some terrible state in the south already doing it.)

    It really seems to rub conservatives the wrong way that the technology exists to separate sex from punishment. You can continue to feel that way, but please, spare the rest of us.

  5. Submitted by John Roach on 10/12/2009 - 04:04 pm.

    re:”…abstinence works as well as anything else.”

    No, it doesn’t.

    Comprehensive sex education programs show statistically significant reductions in pregnancy and intercourse rates, while abstinence-only and “no” sex education are tied in their achievement of higher intercourse and pregnancy rates. This is well established:

    For folks that believe that abstinence would work “if only” we lived in a place where the Beaver and Richie Cunningham still exist: The rest of us and all of our children are required to live in the real world, not your imaginary one.

  6. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 10/12/2009 - 04:13 pm.

    Why is it, in general, conservatives are always so fascinated by what other people do with their genitalia. They worry about teenage sex, homosexuality and extramarital sex. Yet study after study says raising a child to be afraid of sex doesn’t stop them from having sex. We are sexual from the moment we are put in a blue sleeper or a pink sleeper. We would be better to talk about our sexuality rather than trying to shame people into always hiding it.

    For example, look at all of the right-wing politicians who have suppressed their sexuality to the point it basically explodes and becomes a public embarrassment to them and hurts their family.

    Personally, I find it extremely ironic and the biggest darling of the extreme right moralists, Sarah Palin, both had a daughter who got pregnant before marriage, had a baby beyond the age at which it is smart to be having children, and then contemplating an abortion when she found out the child had developmental issues.

  7. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/12/2009 - 09:33 pm.

    I find it ironic that the GOP is supposed to be the party that prefers less governmental intrusion in our personal lives. Yet they want to intrude into our bedrooms, our personal medical decisions as well as our personal moral beliefs and concepts. There would appear to be a real disconnect between the slogan and the reality.

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