Sunday, April 03, 2005

Does Abstinence Work?

Just because for the past couple of weeks I really, really, really wanted my online connection to work properly, does not mean it actually did. [Apparently there was a problem with the cable box; I now have a new one.]

And just because various government officials issue [curiously similar] pronouncements about how well abstinence works to prevent pregnancy, does not mean it actually does.

The president, in his July 2002 remarks to South Carolina high school students, said "Let me just be perfectly plain. If you're worried about teenage pregnancy... abstinence works every single time."


According to Wade Horn, assistant secretary of Health and Human Services in charge of federal abstinence funding, when it comes to sexual education

"We don't need a study, if I remember my biology correctly, to show us that those people who are sexually abstinent have a zero chance of becoming pregnant or getting someone pregnant..."


On the issue of abstinence health department spokesman Bill Pierce said

"One thing we do know about abstinence is that if you practice it, you will not have an unintended pregnancy..."


Kids and kidettes, pay attention: When it comes to abstinence we have no data on its typical-use* effectiveness. In other words, based on the available evidence [as opposed to belief, wishful thinking, and/or ideology] we don't know how well this birth control method does [or does not] work.

*Researchers have two different ways of measuring the effectiveness of contraceptive methods. "Perfect use" measures the effectiveness when a contraceptive is used exactly according to clinical guidelines. In contrast, "typical use" measures how effective a method is for the average person who does not always use the method correctly or consistently.

...

[R]esearchers have never measured the typical-use effectiveness of abstinence. Therefore, it is not known how frequently abstinence fails in the real world or how effective it is compared with other contraceptive methods.



(American Street link via Pharyngula)

7 Comments:

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no difference between perfect use and typical use. If you have sex, you are no longer abstinent. I think the real question is whether teenagers will be abstinent. I think that if they choose to and are supported in that choice, they will. I think kids who intend to have sex will do so regardless of education. The only question is the numbers in each group.

 
At 9:10 PM, Blogger ema said...

There is no difference between perfect use and typical use.

Please support your assertion.

If you have sex, you are no longer abstinent.

The very example of typical use [method not always used correctly or consistently].

I think that if they choose to and are supported in that choice, they will.

I would also like to believe that. Unfortunately, the evidence we have so far [recent study found teens pledging virginity until marriage are more likely to have oral and anal sex than other teens who have not had intercourse] isn't encouraging.

 
At 11:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no difference between perfect use and typical use.

Doesn't this assume that the abstainer has total control over if/when they have sex? Not everyone is in this position all of the time, unfortunately. Thus one can *intend* to be abstinent, and yet be raped. This creates at least a small difference between perfect use and typical use. The number is not zero.

 
At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thus one can *intend* to be abstinent, and yet be raped. This creates at least a small difference between perfect use and typical use. The number is not zero.

Exactly. This is one thing I hate about the "abstinence movement" - no acknowledgement of rape or coerced sex. Unless rape survivors get immediately labeled as non-abstinent, which is just a hair's width away from blaming the victim....

 
At 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rape and coercion (if you separate the two) have to be dealt with, but I'm not sure how that should affect whether abstinence or bc is also taught. If the choice to have sex is one-sided, then the choice to use a condom is as well-IOW, the victim has no control over either, so how is teaching bc going to help him/her? OTOH, I think abstinence education can help teens with the problem of verbal/social coercion by giving them permission to say no.
I think using rape as an example of inconsistent use of abstinence also legitimizes the idea that rape is even synonymous with sex. This smacks of blaming the victim-she couldn't stop him from having sex with her but she could've made him put on a condom if she'd only known enough. A sexually active person can also be raped, and also will not have control of the potential consequences.

 
At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abstinence *or* birth control? Every birth control discussion I ever had as a teenager back in the 70s and 80s (whether in a class or in a book) *always* mentioned that the safest thing to do was not have sex at all.

It's not an "or" question, but whether contraception is discussed at all.

 
At 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The premise of abstinence only education is that putting an abstinence disclaimer with a lot of information about birth control is giving permission: "Don't, but if you do. . ." Sort of like "Don't drink; but if you do, don't drive." With this assumption it really is an either/or discussion

 

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