A fascinating report by Advocates for Youth proves what many of us have known intuitively for a long time: America's religion-based "morality" doesn't work. In spite of the good intentions of Nancy Reagan and her followers, the "Just Say No" policy for sex education actually increases pregnancy, abortion, venereal disease and poverty.
Check out these disturbing facts from the Advocates for Youth report:
|Pregnancy per 100,000||72.2||11.8|
|Births per 1,000 ages 15-19||42.5||4.8|
|Abortion per 100,000 ages 15-19||19.8||7.8|
|HIV/STI Rates all adults||0.6%||0.1%|
|Syphilis cases per 100,000 adults||2.7||1.0|
|Gonorrhea cases per 100,000 ages 15-19||458.8||13.92|
|Chlamydia cases per 100,000 ages 15-19||2,862||150.4|
If the United States could match the Netherlands' abortion rates, there would be almost 125,000 fewer abortions per year!
You'd think any anti-abortionist would take a look at these numbers and say, "Gosh, let's get on board with their program! It works!" But no, they can't. Why? Because it requires society to be realistic about teens and sex. It means we have to talk openly and honestly with our kids. They have to know that they can ask us for help with their sexuality and get it – without a dose of disapproval or a moralistic lesson.
Just how open are the Dutch to their children's sexuality? Amy Schalet wrote a wonderful report (pdf) on Dutch adolescent sexuality that I encourage all Americans to read. She writes:
"[The] vast majority of American parents oppose a sleepover for high-school-aged teenagers, while Dutch teenagers who have steady boyfriends or girlfriends are typically allowed to spend the night with them in their rooms.Schalet goes on to say that the Dutch attitudes are pragmatic rather than moralistic. Where Americans continue to vilify sexuality based on conservative Biblical morals, the Dutch teach their children that sexuality is to be respected and enjoyed. Where we teach guilt and make our children afraid to come to us with problems, the Dutch teach their children to be healthy, honest and open about their sex lives.
Today, most adolescents in the U.S., like their peers across the industrialized world, engage in intercourse. ... Initiating sex and exploring romantic relationships, often with several successive partners before settling into long- term cohabitation or marriage, are now normative parts of adolescence and young adulthood in the developed world. But in the U.S., teenage sex has been fraught with cultural ambivalences, heated political struggles, and poor health outcomes... American adolescent sexuality has been dramatized rather than normalized.
And it works. Just look at the numbers above. Teens are going to have sex no matter what we tell them. We can preach morals to them all day long, and all it does is cause venereal disease, abortions and guilt.
If the religious right wants to cut down on abortion, teen sex and venereal disease, they should take a lesson from the Dutch. Stop preaching, and learn to talk to your children. They're going to have sex, so let them do it openly, with love, respect and responsibility rather than in the back seat of a car.