Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Community Based Abstinence "Education" Business Plan

Forget the entrepreneurial acumen of the underpants gnomes. The Community Based Abstinence "Education" (CBAE) government welfare piggies can teach us all a thing or two about business. Behold:

Step 1. Formalize the ideology behind your multimillion-dollar scheme.

Shoring up marriage was Robert Rector’s vision a decade ago. A fellow at the Heritage Foundation, Mr. Rector wrote the first bill that legally defined abstinence education, and got it attached as a stowaway to the 1996 welfare overhaul, backed with $50 million for the states. A later Congress, irked at states’ finding loopholes in the original intent, designated a second pool of abstinence money in 2001, now the lifeblood of the movement.

Mr. Rector says viewing abstinence primarily through the lens of public health distracted the focus from marriage. "Once you understand that that’s the principal issue," he said, "you understand that handing out condoms to a 17-year-old is utterly irrelevant."

Step 1a. Encourage use of visual aids when propagandizing scheme.

"You have to look at why sex was created," Eric Love, the director of the East Texas Abstinence Program, which runs Virginity Rules, said one day, the sounds of Christian contemporary music humming faintly in his Longview office. "Sex was designed to bond two people together."

To make the point, Mr. Love grabbed a tape dispenser and snapped off two fresh pieces. He slapped them to his filing cabinet and the floor; they trapped dirt, lint, a small metal bolt. "Now when it comes time for them to get married, the marriage pulls apart so easily," he said, trying to unite the grimy strips. "Why? Because they gave the stickiness away."

2. Don't concern yourself with scientific accuracy, public health, or beneficial results.

Much of the data cited in support of the efficacy of abstinence programs are from surveys taken immediately before and after a program. These commonly find an increase in intentions to stay abstinent, but do not necessarily mean that a year later, high on emotion, teenagers will follow the script.

Most studies so far have found no significant impact on behavior, and the few that do see only modest changes. In April, Mathematica Policy Research released a report that was nine years and $8 million in the making. Scientists followed middle school children enrolled in four separate abstinence programs for about five years, and found no difference in the age of first intercourse between them and their peers.

3. Factor in the given that Democrats will vigorously support your government welfare scheme, and then some more ($28 million more than requested and counting).

Those who thought abstinence education financing would decline swiftly under a Democratic watch were wrong: On July 11, the full House extended state grants through September — a reprieve at the edge of expiration. That same day, the House Appropriations Committee increased spending, a political move to make the proposed Health and Human Services budget more appealing to Republicans, said Representative David R. Obey, Democrat of Wisconsin, the committee chairman.

4. Count on news outlets to spread your propaganda.

The long decline in sexual activity among U.S. teenagers, hailed as one of the nation's most important social and public health successes, appears to have stalled.

After decreasing steadily and significantly for more than a decade, the percentage of teenagers having intercourse began to plateau in 2001 and has failed to budge since then, despite the intensified focus in recent years on encouraging sexual abstinence, according to new analyses of data from a large federal survey.

The halt in the downward trend coincided with an increase in federal spending on programs focused exclusively on encouraging sexual abstinence until marriage, several experts noted.


The data on teen sexual activity come from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a nationally representative survey of about 13,000 students in grades nine through 12 conducted every two years by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The most recent survey data, from 2005, was released last year, but attention focused primarily on the overall change in sexual behavior from 1991 to 2005....That comparison shows a significant drop, from 54 percent to nearly 47 percent, in the proportion of teenagers who said they had ever had sex. The fraction who said they had sex in the past three months fell from 37 percent to 34 percent.

Largely unnoticed was that the percentages for both measures did not change significantly between 2001 and 2005.

As Rachel notes:

I’m not making any statements here about what the baseline rate for teen sex should be. However, I’m guessing that the news outlets who parroted the drop in teen sex were getting press releases from pro-abstinence-only folks (whether .org or .gov) whose funding was up for debate, and rushed to print this "dramatic" news without properly checking their facts. And by "dramatic news," I mean old news that doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Step 5. Leslee Unruh. Just...Leslee Unruh.

"We need to increase abstinence education and give more dollars to abstinence education. It is the healthiest program we have for young people," said Leslee Unruh of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse.

Well done, indeed.

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