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ISSUE 120 VOL 7 PUBLISHED 11/10/2006

Feds preach abstinence

By Alyssa Kleven
Contributing Writer

Friday, November 10, 2006

Three years ago, when I left for college, my mom gave me the sex talk. Not the birds and the bees, but rather the effects the birds and the bees would have on my life. The college had sent my parents a letter, which I'm sure most of your parents received before you left for school, encouraging my parents to talk to me about those tough pressures college will throw at us, such as alcohol, drugs and sex. My dad covered drugs and alcohol, but my mom was the one assigned to give me the sex talk. This conversation was, of course, between my mother and myself. However, I feel the need to say that at 18 years old, as much as I mostly agreed with my mother, my opinions about sex, its meaning and my decision to do or not to do it were already determined.

Since sexually transmitted infections (STI), like HIV, entered the public sphere, tax dollars have been going towards public schools’ sexual education programs. At the forefront of this conversation is, of course, the safest way to protect people from diseases, as well as from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections: abstinence. It's the surefire approach; to abstain from sex will help people avoid STIs and unwanted or out-of-wedlock births.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a “clarification” of guidelines currently governing sexual education programs paid by tax dollars. In order to discourage out-of-wedlock children being born to women between the ages of 20 and 29, states will have the option of redirecting funds towards an “Abstinence for Adults” program.

Abstinence for adults, you might ask? To some this might sound foreign, to others safe, and to even more ... normal. However, to dedicate a portion of our tax dollars to education about this practice would be a poor direction of funds. According to statistics, there are 1.5 million babies born to 20-somethings each year, and two-thirds of those children are born out of wedlock. The argument the Republican Party (GOP) and HHS have for supporting the redirection of the tax dollars is the prevention of out-of-wedlock children born to this demographic.

Unlike their high school counterparts, 20-somethings have a very different lifestyle. One must consider that earning a high school diploma opens many doors that would otherwise be closed to them. Earning a high school diploma is crucial in having even a low-paying job. However, something can be said about women in their 20s; their life situation is very different. Although many women in their early 20s are still in college, or just starting careers, by their late 20s many women are self-sufficient. Bringing a child into the world in your 20s puts a baby in a better living position simply because a 20-something mother would have the ability to take care of a child better than a teenager.

The move by the GOP to reallocate the use of these tax dollars feels like it has more religious connotations than it does those of safety or of practicality. Yes, abstinence is the safest way to protect you from STIs and to guarantee that one will not become pregnant, but we were taught this when we were younger. Education about birth control and contraceptives hasn’t even been a part of the conversation about what could be directed at 20-somethings. Despite the risks that 20-somethings take, we know what the risks are. If these tax dollars now tell my already-made-up-mind about sex, then the government might not teach kids who need to know about sexual health before they make purely passionate, instead of well-informed, decisions.

If we should be more concerned about teen pregnancy and those repercussions, and we teach children about sexual health, including abstinence, at a young age, we must ask ourselves if it's really necessary to continue abstinence education into adulthood, when most opinions on this and other important life decisions are already decided. Even though my mother had very compelling arguments, I was already set in my opinions. And at 21 my view on sex still hasn’t changed.

Copy Editor Alyssa Kleven is a senior from Albany, Ore. She majors in English and with a concentration in media studies.

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