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Argument: Comprehensive sex ed fosters an irresponsible sexual culture

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Fletcher Doyle. "The case for abstinence". Buffalo News. 31 Mar. 2008 - In a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology on the role of male sexual partners and relationships in determining whether women seek emergency contraception when needed, it was found that “factors measuring power dynamics, such as male dominant decision making and pressure for sex as well as a strong desire to avoid pregnancy on the part of the male partner have a significant association with the use of EC. However, relationship factors known to be associated with use of other contraceptive methods, such as communication, satisfaction and commitment, show no association with EC use.”

Plan B leaves vulnerable young girls, whose only weapon against the unwanted sexual advances of men is the fear of pregnancy, defenseless. The man can say, “Call me tonight and take two pills in the morning.” The problem is, those pills don’t work as well as advertised. Our society’s response to teen pregnancy has been to address the symptoms and not the cause. A middle school in Portland, Maine, responded to pregnancies among its students by making birth control pills available to girls as young as 11. Texas Gov. Rick Perry issued an executive order making it mandatory that all girls entering sixth grade in 2008 be vaccinated with Gardasil, which prevents some forms of cervical cancer that are caused by the STD human papilloma virus. This just keeps us on a path that is leading in the wrong direction, a path that is having a negative impact on the welfare of our country.

STDs have become epidemic and, according to a March 2006 article in Newsweek, are in part to blame for a 20 percent increase of infertility among the young since 2005. Suicide rates among sexually active teens are much higher than among those who abstain. And the incidence of single motherhood is increasing in all age groups.

The percentage of children born to unwed mothers has jumped from 5.8 percent in 1960 to 36 percent today. The percentage in the African- American community is nearly 80 percent. Single motherhood is the most common determining factor among those living in poverty, and with it comes a host of social problems and expenses.

Akerlof and his co-authors wrote that the pill, which carried such promise, led slowly to the feminization of poverty. But they also point out that turning back the clock on birth control would only exacerbate the problem, exposing women to men who, as cultural anthropologist Lionel Tiger put it, have come to expect uncommitted intercourse if only because that is their experience. Akerlof proposes mandatory child support as a way of forcing young men to take some responsibility for the children they father.

Recent headlines, in the wake of the pregnancy of 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears, have shouted that teen pregnancy has become cool. There is no longer any stigma attached to single motherhood. All of this is harmful to women.

We need to restore the sense of commitment between sexually active people that was the norm before the advent of the pill. To do that we need a commitment from all areas of society. It will take an effort on the scale of the no-smoking campaign and it will take time.

We have the 43 years since the start of the sexual revolution to undo. We have made smokers pariahs, banned them from public places and shown through graphic television commercials the physical effects of their behavior. We can do the same thing to attack teen pregnancy.

Call it abstinence, call it character-based, call it comprehensive, but it won’t succeed unless we find a way to instill a feeling of responsibility into young men toward young women, who have borne the brunt of our safe sex policies. We should teach men to respect women, and not have intercourse with them until they are ready to care for the life they may be creating.

Plan B won’t work. It’s time to come up with Plan A.

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