CURRENT MOON

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Abstinence As Birth Control: Fail! U R Doing It Wrong!


During the campaign, I was pretty adamant about not going after Sarah Palin for her parenting choices, nor after her pregnant, teen-age daughter, Bristol. I've been a pregnant teen-ager and a teen-age mom, and, under the best of circumstances, it's no bed of roses in this culture. But Bristol's decided to make the rounds of various talk shows; at least, I assume she, not her parents, made that decision. So I do intend to comment on one point. A few weeks ago, Bristol was interviewed and said, that telling young people to be abstinent is "not realistic at all."

That may not have gone over too well with someone, because, earlier this week, Bristol was back on the talk show circuit and this time, she kept repeating, bot-like, that "abstinence is the only way that you can effectively, 100%, foolproof way, to prevent pregnancy." The talking head in the first video says, "It is."

In the final video, the talking head interviewing the father of Bristol's child, says to him that Bristol now says that abstinence is the only "surefire way to prevent teen pregnancy. Which is true."

No, it's not.

Abstinence, as a method of birth control, has an horrific fail rate. Bristol Palin herself was using abstinence and got pregnant. There are thousands of people who were practicing abstinence until that method of birth control failed. So it is absolutely not a way to "effectively, 100%, foolproof, surefire prevent pregnancy." My guess is that the failure rate is so high that, if it were being sold at drugstores, rather than through propaganda and the press, it wouldn't be able to call itself an effective method of birth control.

And if there's a population for whom abstinence is more likely to fail than for any other population, my guess is that it's teenagers and very young adults. This is a population charged with hormones, as well as a population that still hasn't gotten (and yes, these are generalizations) the notion that "it" can happen to them, whether "it" is losing control of a car after a few beers or getting pregnant after a few "abstinence failures." And, because they're practicing abstinence, which they've been told is 100% effective and foolproof, they're less likely to have a condom or some other method of birth control around "just in case."

It's one thing for Bristol Palin, who, as far as I can tell, never really got much education beyond junior high school and who has been raised in an extreme fundie church, to go around spreading misinformation about the effectiveness of abstinence as a method of birth control. But it's another thing for adult interviewers on television to agree with her. Kali on a cracker, how difficult would it be to say, "You say it's 100% effective. It's not. You used it and you got pregnant. You said a few weeks ago that it's not a realistic method of birth control for young people. Why have you changed your message?"

Picture found here.

Hat tip: watertiger.

10 comments:

RetroKali said...

It is amazing to me that the church condones methods that are polar opposites to human nature. No wonder priests abuse little kids, and pastors have affairs...when you deny human nature what do you think is going to happen? Something dark comes out in the place of what should which is normal, healthy human sexuality. Burns me up!

Anonymous said...

Somehow she missed the day when they defined abstinence as "not having sex".

K

Abbi said...

I don't normally comment on the blogs I read but I feel like I have to this time. I think you're way off the mark.

Abstinence doesn't have a "fail rate" because it doesn't fail*. If you look at the fail rate for condoms, that doesn't include the people who usually use them but forgot once or twice does it? No.

Fail rate assumes that you stuck to the method of contraception you were using. If you come off the pill then get pregnant, the pill didn't fail, you just stopped taking it.

That said, I don't agree with the people who say abstinence is the only way. I was raised xtian fundie and know a few girls who got pregnant while still at school/before marriage**. That (and the fact I'm Pagan) shows that indoctrination doesn't always work.

I think teenagers need to be taught about all options, meaning contraception AND abstinence.

Here in the UK, you either go to a school like mine where we were given no sex education because the school believed in abstinence, or you get education about contraception only and the possibility of not having sex is never mentioned.

There is so much pressure on teenagers to have sex that many of them do so because they think it's "normal" and they're "supposed to", not because it's something they actually want.

I know girls who've gotten into some pretty dodgy situations because they thought "Well if everyone else is doing it, I can't say no." They don't just need to be taught that sex is ok if you use a condom and this is how you do it. They also need to be supported in resisting peer pressure and making their own decisions, something that's tough for a lot of teenagers.

I'm 21 and I'm a virgin. I don't think sex is bad, I'm not uncomfortable with my body. And by the way it's not that I'm so ugly or smelly that no one wants me. Guys have wanted me, I just haven't wanted them. I won't sleep with a guy I'm indifferent to, I'd rather wait until it actually feels right. Until then I'm happy *cough*rabbit*cough*.

Sorry that was such a long comment, I just felt like I had to point out that I disagree with both of the positions given in the original post. Sex isn't bad, but there's nothing wrong with abstinence either.

*I'm not including rape here.
** Not counting people who've been raped/date raped here either.

nanoboy said...

To quote the lovely T-shirts that quote a movie called "Puberty Blues," "To all the virgins, thanks for nothing."

I kid. Anyway, yeah, teaching abstinence only in school is extremely stupid. However, Abbi's right. I think it's easiest to say that abstinence cannot fail; it can only be failed.

Ruth said...

Dallas TX had a School Bd that would only allow abstinence only ed. and wouldn't allow the Health Dept to give out condoms. Now they've got such a high birth rate they've returned to letting the Health Dept hand out condoms. on to abstinence only ed. - unless you have lots of $$ to support those babies.

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analion26 said...

it is amazing that people think abstinence is rong

munin_and_hugin said...

Admittedly, this is just me, but I (embarrassingly enough) got started on my sex education by my Aunt at the age of 6. At the zoo. On a school field trip. (She was a docent at there.) My mother was never shy about giving my sisters and I books, talking to us, answering any questions that came up, and teaching us some things our Health class didn't. (Like how condoms are not 100% effective when it comes to certain STDs, because she's a Med Tech.) This, I know, is well out of the norm for American families.

If I ever have children, I will not trust their sexual education to the school system, it's just not good enough. And because I was not taught abstinence is the only way I never let things go very far until after I was 18. Also, not common among American teens. (I'm 23, it's not that far back, still.) I had enough confidence in myself to choose to say no, and that I am supremely thankful for. Again, my mother really gets the credit for that.

Openness on the subject of sex is what I most advocate. Don't trust someone else to teach your children about being safe, or being confident enough to choose for themselves, even if you think it's too early. America is so Puritanical on the subject that I think it's one of the main reasons behind teen pregnancy. Silence is not the answer to this problem, nor is abstinence when it's taught as the only option. Young people are in a rush to grow up, explore their own bodies, and their affect on each other. This has always been so, and it's not going to change.

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