Monday, April 11, 2005

What? Our government is misinforming us?!

Yes, people, I hate to inform you: your government lies. I know, I know. It's disheartening and you're shocked. But, alas.

Yes, the government has set up a website, www.4parents.gov that, predictably given our current president's disdain for science, distorts the sex ed. debate:

As ... sexual health organizations complain, 4parents.gov delivers a stealth dose of pro-life advocacy. The site defines pregnancy, for instance, as a process "that begins when an egg cell and a sperm cell unite." Actually, not every fertilized egg implants in the wall of the uterus, meaning that a better definition of pregnancy would probably emphasize implantation, not fertilization. The site also refers to a fertilized egg shortly after implantation as an "unborn child," a phrase that appears repeatedly on 4parents.gov.


Sorry, but a merged egg and sperm, implanted or not, does not constitute a child. A life? Maybe. At least I can respect your position. But a child? Please.

In order to make its pro-abstinence case, 4parents.gov also presents selective or distorted information about the effectiveness of condoms, a common tick on the religious right. The site takes every opportunity to downplay condom efficacy, with passages such as the following:

Studies suggest that condoms, when used consistently and correctly, offer significant risk reduction (80-87 percent) for HIV/AIDS. Condoms provide less risk reduction for other sexually transmitted diseases. Research indicates significant risk reduction for HIV to almost none for others (e.g., HPV).

Here, 4parents.gov appears to be relying exclusively on published studies that positively prove condom effectiveness for certain diseases, while conveniently ignoring basic common sense. What the site neglects to tell American parents is the following: According to the National Institutes of Health, condoms "provide a highly effective barrier to transmission of particles of similar size to those of the smallest STD viruses." Because of this characteristic, continues the NIH, there is "a strong probability of condom effectiveness when used correctly" both for diseases spread by discharges (including gonorrhea and chlamydia), and for diseases spread by skin-to-skin contact (including herpes, syphilis, and HPV), so long as the condom covers the infected area.

In short, even though the effectiveness of condoms may not have been proven in rigorous studies for all conditions, we nevertheless know that condoms provide a strong barrier against STD transmission.


Yes, condoms do work. Do they work as well as abstinence? Hell no. Absolutely not, no way, no how, not ever. That's why we should teach abstinence first. But after that it's irresponsible and yes, immoral, to not teach about preventing STD's and unwanted pregnancies through condom use.

Chris Mooney, the author of the article, finishes his otherwise excellent article, with this curious conclusion:

It is a sad day, but we can no longer doubt that it has arrived. At least in the area of sexual health, Americans can no longer rely on their own government for balanced, objective information.


Uh, Chris, when and about what did you previously depend on your government for balanced information? Word to the wise: Stop-- at least for the next three and a half years.

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