Abstinence Education: Intentions, Outcomes, and Ethics

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Tiassa, Jul 6, 2014.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member


    Bruce Alpert of The Times-Picayune brings the lede:

    The Bill Cassidy Senate campaign announced Thursday that the candidate's unmarried 17-year-old daughter is pregnant as she prepares for her senior year at a Baton Rouge high school.

    Over at Daily Kos, TeamSarah4Choice added the relevant detail:

    Co-sponsor of Abstinence Only legislation, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) announced his unwed, 17 year old daughter is pregnant.

    Not long ago, Matt Lauer asked a female CEO if she could work and be a good mother. At the time, many people wondered why men are not asked the same type of question.

    GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy's idea of a good father is a father who promotes abstinence only. In fact, Rep. Bill Cassidy co-sponsored the abstinence only bill in the US Congress which is titled "Abstinence Education Reallocation Act of 2013" ... hmmm ...

    Cassidy's Abstinence Act would:

    H.R.718 -- Abstinence Education Reallocation Act of 2013

    (b) Qualified Sexual Risk Avoidance Education- To qualify for funding under subsection (a), sexual risk avoidance education shall meet each of the following:
    (4) The context for all sexual health education shall be teaching the skills and benefits of sexual abstinence as the optimal sexual health behavior for youth.

    (5) The education shall include, consistent with paragraphs (1) through (4), teaching of each of the following:

    (A) The holistic health, economic, and societal benefits that can be gained by refraining from nonmarital sexual activity, through teaching practical skills that promote self-regulation, goal setting, and a focus on the future.

    (B) The clear advantage of reserving human sexual activity for marriage, as a key contributing factor in the prevention of poverty and the preservation of physical and emotional health, based on social science research.

    (C) The foundational components of a healthy relationship and related research regarding the individual, economic, and societal advantages of bearing children within the context of a committed marital relationship in order to form healthy marriages and safe and stable families.

    (D) The skills needed to resist the negative influences of the pervasive sex-saturated culture that presents teenage sexual activity as an expected norm, with few risks or negative consequences.

    (E) The understanding of how drugs, alcohol, and the irresponsible use of social media can influence sexual decisionmaking and can contribute to risky and often aggressive sexual behavior.

    (F) A focused priority on the superior health benefits of sexual abstinence, ensuring that any information provided on contraception does not exaggerate its effectiveness in preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies.

    Co-Sponsor Rep. Bill Cassidy - H.R.718 Abstinence Education Reallocation Act of 2013 ....​

    .... It appears that teaching "abstinence only" in his home failed as GOP Rep. Cassidy's daughter is an unwed, pregnant teen going into her senior year of high school.

    And we can certainly say what we will about the question of political dignity, but it also seems worth recalling when Michelle Goldberg recounted a relevant tale of faith and freedom:

    So at the 2003 conference, when the abstinence educator Pam Stenzel spoke, she knew she didn't have to justify her objection to sex education with prosaic arguments about health and public policy. She could be frank about the real reasons society must not condone premarital sex. "Because it is," as she shouted during one particularly impassioned moment, "Stinking filthy dirty rotten sin!" A pretty, zaftig brunette from Minnesota with a degree in psychology from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, Stenzel makes a living telling kids not to have sex. Rather, she makes a living trying to scare kids out of having sex. As she says in her video, No Screwing Around, "If you have sex outside of marriage, to a partner who has only been with you, then you will pay." A big part of her mission is puncturing students' beliefs that condoms can protect them. She says she addresses half a million kids each year, and millions more have received her message via video. Thanks to George W. Bush, abstinence education has become a thriving industry, and Stenzel has been at its forefront. Bush appointed her to a twelve-person task force at the Department of Health and Human Services to help implement abstinence education guidelines. She's been a guest at the White House and a speaker at the United Nations. Her non-profit company, Enlightenment Communications, which puts on abstinence talks and seminars in public schools, typically grossed several hundred thousand dollars a year during the first Bush term.

    At Reclaiming America for Christ, Stenzel told her audience about a conversation she'd had with a skeptical businessman on an airplane. The man had asked about abstinence education's success rate, a question she regarded as risible.

    "What he's asking," she said, "is 'does it work?' You know what? Doesn't matter. 'Cause guess what? My job is not to keep teenagers from having sex. The public school's job should not be to keep teens from having sex."

    Then her voice rose and turned angry as she shouted, "Our job should be to tell kids the truth!" And I should say that up 'til then, I agreed with her. But here's what she means by the truth:

    "People of God," she cried, "can I beg you to commit yourself to truth? Not what works, to truth! I don't care if it works, because at the end of the day, I'm not answering to you. I'm answering to God.

    "Let me tell you something, People of God, that is radical, and I can only say it here," she said. "AIDS is not the enemy. HPV and a hysterectomy at twenty is not the enemy. An unplanned pregnancy is not the enemy. My child believing that they can shake their fist in the face of a holy God and sin without consequence, and my child spending eternity separated from God, is the enemy! I will not teach my child that they can sin safely!"

    It's one of those odd conundra; is this really about the children, or is it about the adults teaching the children, or perhaps one can explain the need to deliberately teach children health and safety principles that demonstrably result in the outcome one ostensibly works against?

    They know it doesn't work.

    They push it anyway.

    And we are not surprised when one of their daughters gets knocked up; they already know what they teach the children doesn't work.

    Setting aside the question of how evil the "God" Stenzel appeals to, or clownish the principle by which one justifies this sort of moral outlook, is it really ethical to treat children this way?

    And remember, as Pam Stenzel explained over a decade ago: An unplanned pregnancy is not the enemy.

    Abstinence educaton is not about reducing unwed pregnancy. Indeed, it would appear to be more about the advocates' concern for their own souls.

    I wonder if sexually transmitted diseases are a just enemy for abstinence education? Or is this really about making sure that one does not accidentally sin by proxy?

    I guess we can go back to the tale of Abraham and Isaac.

    Well, that would explain things if there was a ram in the thicket.


    Alpert, Bruce. "Senate candidate Bill Cassidy discloses that his teenage daughter is pregnant". The Times-Picayune. July 3, 2014. NOLA.com. July 5, 2014. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/07/bill_cassidy_senate_campaign_r.html

    TeamSarah4Choice. "GOP 'Abstinence Only' Rep Cassidy's unwed teen daughter is pregnant. Can he work AND be good father?" The Daily Kos. July 5, 2014. DailyKos.com. July 5, 2014. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/...er-is-pregnant-Can-he-work-AND-be-good-father

    Goldberg, Michelle. "The Rise of Christian Nationalism". Speakers' Forum. October 18, 2007. KUOW.org. July 5, 2014. http://www2.kuow.org/program.php?id=13646

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