Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Pediatricians are smart people

As you probably already know, the American Academy of Pediatrics weighed in on the abstinence wars. And they weighed in on the right side.

No surprise here, people that respect science over ideology will generally tell you teaching kids only about abstinence is not only stupid, but dangerous.

I don't have much more to add. I've said all this before. But I do want to point out one thing I noticed in the AP report on this story:

Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said counseling only abstinence, preferably until marriage, is the best approach because it sends a clear, consistent message.

Notice the placement of the words: "couseling only abstinence" ... who's going to argue with that? Very few would. Counsel only abstinence all you want. But don't only counsel abstinence.

Confused? You're supposed to be. The right likes to play with language to obfuscate their often ridiculous policy positions and this is a prime example.

If you only talk about abstinence -- to the exclusion of birth control, STD prevention, etc. -- you're greatly increasing risks to public health. It's bad policy and they know it; thus the confusing phrasing. If you advise kids to only practice abstinence -- to the exclusion of being sexually active -- but also tell them how to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STDs should they decide to forsake your wise counsel, you're acting responsibly. And they know that, too, which is why they make it sound like that's what they're doing. But they're not.

Counsel only abstinence. But teach prevention, too.

From the LA Times:

Teaching abstinence but not birth control makes it more likely that once teenagers initiate sexual activity they will have unsafe sex and contract sexually transmitted diseases, said Dr. S. Paige Hertweck, a pediatric obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Louisville who provided advice for the report.

The report appears in July's Pediatrics, being published Tuesday.

It updates a 1998 policy by omitting the statement that "abstinence counseling is an important role for all pediatricians." The new policy says that while doctors should encourage adolescents to postpone sexual activity, they also should help ensure that all teens -- not just those who are sexually active -- have access to birth control, including emergency contraception.

The article from Pediatrics magazine is here.


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