Spurred by the recent release of data from a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), newspapers across the country are using the editorial page to support comprehensive sexuality education. The study, based on sampling data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which tested for four of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), found that one in four teenage girls and young women is infected with one of these diseases.1 The study further found African American teenage girls are disproportionately affected with nearly 50 percent infected with an STD.2 Editorial boards across the country responded to the new statistics by assailing their state’s abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
For example, the Battle Creek Enquirer in Michigan commented, “Numerous studies have shown that despite the federal government’s advocacy of abstinence-only sex education, it is having no impact on teen sexuality. In fact, after more than a decade of decline, the national teen pregnancy rate is beginning to trend upward.”3 Michigan received more than $5 million in federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funds in Fiscal Year 2007. In addition, the state provided over half a million dollars in matching funds.
The state of South Dakota received nearly $1 million in abstinence-only-until-marriage funding in the same year. It is also the home of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, one of the first organizations to receive federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding. One local newspaper in that state, the Rapid City Journal commented, “At the very least, those numbers [in the study] suggest the sad reality that the federal government’s decade-long abstinence-only approach to sex education has not been effective.” The paper continues, “…Those abstinence-only programs are not only ineffective, but dangerous, too.”4
In North Carolina, the Winston-Salem Journal editorialized that “The nation has spent $1.5 billion on an abstinence-only sex-education program that has been demonstrated not to work. Studies have shown this time and again, yet our squeamishness about sexual matters and the strength of the socially conservative right in the Bush administration has kept the nation focused on this inadequate approach.”5 The Department of Health in North Carolina received $2.2 million in abstinence-only-until-marriage funding from the federal government in Fiscal Year 2007.
The CDC data release also spread north. Alaska’s Anchorage Daily News wrote, “Abstinence is completely effective in preventing these diseases. But it’s obvious from the data that it’s not realistic to believe all teenage girls can be convinced to put off sex. It’s hurtful to these young women to pretend that that’s going to happen. But that’s what we do when we indoctrinate them about abstinence while denying them information about safe sex.” The state received nearly $1 million in abstinence-only-until-marriage funds from the federal government in Fiscal Year 2007 and is fighting an uphill battle given that Alaska has the highest Chlamydia rates per capita in the country.6
Finally, in Washington State, which received nearly $2.5 million in federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funds in Fiscal Year 2007, The Olympian’s editorial page commented, “But the Bush administration has not done the next generation of adults any favors by pursuing such a narrow sex education agenda.”7 The paper continued, “If the sex education programs offered in public schools, coupled with strong family values, can bring some sanity to the already difficult process of discovering one’s sexuality, that’s a good thing, even if it means losing access to a federal grant.”8
These editorials, from five geographically diverse states, give voice to the increasing opposition to the Bush administration’s abstinence-only-until-marriage initiative. But the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota may have summed it up best: “It is time for Congress to insist that schools, agencies and youth programs that administer those programs add comprehensive sex education that help limit the spread of sexually transmitted infections and diseases to the mix. The health of a generation of teenage girls depends on it.”9
- “Nationally Representative CDC Study Finds 1 in 4 Teenager Girls Have a Sexually Transmitted Disease,” National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, (11 March 2008), accessed on http://www.cdc.gov/STDConference/2008/media/release-11march2008.pdf.
- “Sex Education Must Be Comprehensive,” Battle Creek Enquirer, 20 March 2008, accessed on http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080320/OPINION01/803200303/1014/OPINION.
- “Abstinence-only education not enough,” Rapid City Journal, 29 March 2008, accessed 11 April 2008, http://www.sdlegislature.com/articles/2008/03/29/news/opinions/doc47ec2f5977d8e009376241.txt.
- “Teen Infections,” Winston-Salem Journal, 19 March 2008, accessed 11 April 2008, http://www.journalnow.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=WSJ%2FMGArticle%2FWSJ_ColumnistArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1173355010838&path=!opinion!editorials!&s=1037645509188.
- “Don’t say ‘Just say no,’” Anchorage Daily News, 16 March 2008, accessed 11 April 2008, http://www.adn.com/opinion/story/347411.html.
- “Sex education programs must be inclusive,” The Olympian, 4 January 2008.
- “Abstinence-only education not enough.”