Virginia governor Timothy M. Kaine (D.) announced this November that he was rejecting a $275,000 grant from the federal government for abstinence education as he eliminated the state’s abstinence education program altogether. He couldn’t have picked a worse time to make his announcement.
His decision came as the Centers for Disease Control released a report indicating that sexually transmitted diseases are up, and the Institute for Research and Evaluation released a report showing that an abstinence program in Kaine’s own state is achieving remarkable results in fostering teen chastity.
The CDC reported that the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia infected more people in one year (2006) than any disease in the history of disease reporting. As if the one million new reported cases of chlamydia weren’t bad enough (and the CDC notes that the disease is vastly underreported, estimating that there were probably around 2.8 million new cases), the CDC also reports that syphilis and gonorrhea infections are on the rise. All in all, there were approximately 19 million new cases of STDs in 2006.
Of course, diseases are far from the only reasons to be concerned about teen sex. Teen pregnancy — though greatly reduced in recent years — is still a major concern both for the pregnant woman who will be forced to choose between abortion and teen motherhood, and for the unborn child who will either be killed or brought into the world at great disadvantage. (The sad reality is that few women avail themselves of the adoption option.)
But beyond these tangibles lies the hidden emotional and psychological turmoil from which sexually active teens are more likely to suffer. UCLA psychiatrist Miriam Grossman, M.D., chronicles these effects in her book Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student. And the effects are long term: According to University of Chicago sociologist Edward Laumann and his colleagues, sexually active teens are less likely “to be sexually exclusive over the remainder of their life, with the result that divorce is a more likely outcome for them.”
Some seem to believe that talk about emotional and psychological effects of teen sex is a waste, that all the kids need are more latex and pills.
Counterevidence comes from Princeton University, which, according to a forthcoming article in the Princeton Tory, has been the target of an investigation by the State of New Jersey for failing to comply with state STD regulations. In what can be called either an honest oversight or a deliberate attempt to sweep the university’s STD problem under the rug, Princeton has failed to report any STD infections to the government for the past 18 months. Meanwhile, the Daily Princetonian reports that one in four Princeton students suffers from genital herpes and that chlamydia is “a problem” on campus.
Princetonians are anything but a bunch of religious prudes who skipped put-a-condom-on-a-banana-day in junior high school. If ever there were a student body informed on proper condom usage, it would be these kids. (Affording condoms is no problem for them, either.)
Perhaps contraceptive technical know-how and financial resources are not enough. We know from the National Survey of Family Growth that 11.8 percent of sexually active women who use contraception nevertheless become pregnant within a year. And more than half of sexually active Americans will contract an STD by age 25.