Thursday, 26 June 2008

Let teenagers have sex, the statistics speak for themselves...

On Monday, the Daily Mail published an article revealing that a third of all seconday schools have sex-clinics. With this revelation, they produced some revealing statistics.

According to the Mail, "the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy has spent £138million, mainly in encouraging schools to extend sex education and provide advice and contraception" with the result that "the reduction [in the rate of teenage pregnancies] was actually 10.7 per cent." It also stated that "in 2006, there were 39,003 under-18 pregnancies in England, up from 35,371 in 1995." But, as shocking as this may seem, the Mail itself concluded that "there were more teenage girls than in 1995, so the percentage of them becoming pregnant was lower." [My italics]

However, for what these statistics seem to indicate, the article set them out in such a way as to give the opposite. It emphasised that "critics say giving out contraception in schools increases pregnancy and abortion by signalling that it is all right for young teenagers to have sex" and gave a constant platform to such critics, such as Jill Kirby, of the centre-right think tank Centre for Policy Studies. She asserts that ‘this is the normalisation of sex for pupils without the consent of parents.’ Whilst "Patricia Morgan, a researcher and author on family matters, said: ‘There is no evidence that giving out condoms works."

Thus, the inflection of the article was clear, stating that, despite all the available evidence, the policy of educating children about sex so that they are informed and enpowered rather than ignorant and vulnerable "is acknowledged to be failing." The result, as Ms. Morgan puts it, is that 'children have sex, you get pregnancies and abortions and the spread of infections.' And the conclusion, therefore is that 'if you want progress you should start by telling children not to have sex.’

But let's look at the facts on this. The United States is the best example of a country where encouraging abstinence is the norm, and health classes are complemented by visitations from Christian abstinence groups such as "the Silver Ring Thing," who encourage their members to wear a silver ring as a vow to not have sex until marriage. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Netherlands has an extremely liberal sex education policy, with children first being told about sex at five and practical instruction on things such as putting on condoms given from the start of secondary school. Sex, pregnancy, and STDs are covered in great depth.

The result? The statistics show that the US has a teenage pregnancy rate of 79.8 for every thousand, compared to 8.7 per thousand in Holland. The teen abortion rate is 27.5 per thousand in the US, but only 4.2 per thousand in Holland. As for HIV, the rate in the US is 0.75% for men and 0.30% for women, whilst the Netherlands only face 0.27% in men and 0.11% in women. Further to this, if the sexual health statistics in the US were proportionate to those in the Netherlands, America would see 657,000 fewer pregnancies, 441,000 fewer births, 215,000 fewer abortions, and the public cost in sexual health treatment would be $921 million less.

The evidence is clearly there, then, that when you treat children as intelligent and independent, arm them with the facts to protect themselves, and promote safe sex rather than making sex a taboo, then sex becomes less of an issue and the sexual health of the young increases dramatically.

Why can't conservative voices such as those in line with the Daily Mail see this? Why are they so willing to risk the health of the next generation to preserve their own moral standards?