JESUSLAND—Some days, when you're covering the religious sex news beat, the stars just align and you have to stand back and say, "Wow!"
Take today, for instance: Just as the Focus on the Family's Citizenlink e-newsletter reports that the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriation Subcommittee has released a draft of legislation approving $20 million worth of competitive grants to public and private groups for abstinence education, which nearly every reputable sex educator (and Rep. Henry Waxman, among other politicians) knows is a complete waste of money, it turns out that the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has released the information that its December 2009 study found that 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex. That's just 8 percent less than the number of non-evangelical unmarried adults who've also screwed around.
Understand, Republicans in Congress are desperate to throw dollars at the religious organizations that create and promote abstinence-only sex education curricula, since money in their pockets will translate to more Republican-friendly votes at the ballot box. George W. Bush knew this when, in 2004, the very year Waxman's report was released, he asked for Congress to approve about $230 million for the worthless programs. Sadly (for him), Congress only included $133 million for the programs in the 2005 budget—which itself was a $30 million increase over the previous year.
Still, the myth of the efficacy of abstinence-only "sex ed" remains. Take the Washington Post article from early 2010 titled, "Abstinence-only programs might work, study says." It reports on a study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, which found, according to the Post, that "[o]nly about a third of sixth- and seventh-graders who completed an abstinence-focused program started having sex within the next two years, researchers found. Nearly half of the students who attended other classes, including ones that combined information about abstinence and contraception, became sexually active."
But looked at more closely, troubling aspects of the study arise. For instance, the median age of the participants was 12.2 years old, and even though the study group consisted of only 662 students in urban public schools, all African-American, that's still fairly young to be having sex, and since the difference between the abstinence group and the control group was only 15 percent—a number which included some students who got both abstinence and safe-sex instruction—one has to wonder if similar results would be obtained if the group being studied were more racially and ethnically diverse, and included both city-dwellers and more rural children.
However, when it comes to young-adult evangelicals, the idea that these 20-somethings should pledge not to fuck, and to just take a bunch of cold showers or pray if they feel the urge, is a message that clearly has fallen on deaf ears, and that's not only potentially a problem for the youngsters—after all, if they've never been given instruction on how and when to use contraceptives, it's less likely that they will do so—it's also a problem for the conservative religious leaders, since the possibility of unintended pregnancies among the evangelicals will be about as high as for other unmarrieds.
"Because unintended pregnancies are the primary reason women seek abortions and at least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, the religious right might appreciate the important role such centers play helping preventing the chief evil of abortion," writes Tanya Somanader for ThinkProgress.com. "Instead, right-wing Christian organizations are dedicated to defunding and demolishing places like Planned Parenthood. The policies that the religious right and its Republican champions often tout may play well at the pulpit. But, as more and more Christians abandon long-held stances on sexual intercourse, these policies will be an increasingly outdated and even dangerous position for the faithful."
And after all, shotgun weddings are so passé, aren't they?