This is a perfect example of how the Religious Right spins the news in a way that deceives people.
They know their followers are gullible and will believe what they are told. They know their followers won’t bother doing research to factcheck what is being reported. They know they can get away with it within their own community.
Thankfully, the rest of us can call them out on their bullshit.
Take a look at this lede from a OneNewsNow article on abstinence-only sex education:
An abstinence advocate says a new report by the Centers for Disease Control shows that abstinence education is delaying sex among teens.
They quote Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association. What does her group’s press release say?
CDC Data Shows Abstinence Education Works
Abstinence education is delaying sex among teens. Data from an analysis conducted by the CDC shows positive evidence that abstinence education is delivering an effective message. These positive findings should be incorporated in any policy designed to reduce teen sexual activity in our nation,” noted Valerie Huber, Executive Director of NAEA. “This is a time to assess what is working and capitalize on solutions that make a difference in the lives of youth.”
They say that abstinence education works because it delays sex among teens… as if having sex a little later in life is going to fix everything. Notice they don’t mention anything about diseases or pregnancy or the overall effect of abstinence education.
So let’s go to the source — the report that is being referenced, a meta-analysis of CDC data (PDF). Note that the emphasis is theirs, not mine:
What follows represents our minority opinion as members of this study’s External Partners consultant panel and does not represent the views of the CDC or the Adolescent Sex Behavior Coordination Team.
The Task Force has made public its Recommendation Statements without also making available to the public the full set of study findings upon which the recommendations are based — both supporting and otherwise. The reason given for this decision is that the data from the study has not yet been scientifically cleared by the CDC for release to the public.
I wonder if there’s a more reliable source that will tell me what the CDC actually had to say about abstinence-only sex education…
Let’s go to WebMD’s Daniel J. DeNoon, who says something quite different:
Experts Find “Insufficient Evidence” for Abstinence-Only Programs
Nov. 6, 2009 — There’s no evidence that abstinence-only sexual education programs cut teens’ risk of sexually transmitted disease, HIV, or pregnancy, a task force of public health experts finds.
The CDC will publish the findings in a scientific journal in about a year’s time. But the task force today released its bottom-line recommendations:
- On abstinence-only strategies: “The task force concludes that there is insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of group-based abstinence education delivered to adolescents to prevent pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases.”
“The finding of insufficient evidence [for abstinence-based sex ed] really means that based on the evidence available, the task force could not come to any conclusions,” Randy Elder, PhD, the CDC’s scientific director of systematic reviews, tells WebMD. “It is really a big question mark, with the implication being we need more research in this area before we can make any determination whether this intervention does or doesn’t work.”
So while it may delay sex for a bit, it does little to help in every other area. Isn’t that a strike against abstinence-only sex education? Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach abstinence along with information about birth control and condoms?
I mean, what’s more important: having safer sex at a younger age or having unsafe sex at a slightly older age?
My money’s easily on the first option. I’m not advocating sex for minors, but if people are going to have it, better to do it safely.
The Washington Post quotes Elder once again:
Randy Elder of the CDC, who works with the task force, disputed [the minority] argument, saying the critics’ case was flawed.
“All of those points were considered by the task force. They reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of a systematic review process,” he said. “The whole point of what we are doing is to aggregate data from as many studies that are critical to answering the question. What they were doing was chopping up the evidence into very fine subsets to poke holes.”
So there are two people in a large panel who think abstinence-only education works because of results in one area. The panel itself says when all the data is considered — not just a select handful of studies looking at one factor — there’s insufficient evidence in favor of abstinence-only sex education.
Moral of the story: the conservative media says abstinence-only sex education works like a charm.
You see how this works?
It’s gotten to the point where I just assume whatever the religious right says is a lie. Then I do 10 seconds of research to find the truth.
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