These figures cast new light on the debate over contraception education. The commonly quoted failure rates of 8% for the Pill and 15% for the condom are inflated by the highly successful use by middle-aged, middle-class married couples. Yet, the government promotes contraception most heavily among the young, the poor and the single. The “overall failure rates” are simply not relevant to this target population.
Planned Parenthood and its allies in the sex education business have had conniptions over federal funding for abstinence education. But at least abstinence actually works. If you don’t have sex, you won’t get pregnant. It works every time.
With contraception, we can absolutely predict that some sexual encounters will result in pregnancy. The young, the poor and the unmarried are the most likely to experience a contraceptive failure. For these groups, pregnancy is not a rare accident, but highly likely. When the inevitable pregnancy occurs, guess who is ready to help solve her problem? That’s right: Planned Parenthood will sell her an abortion. The same people who teach sex education, which increases the demand for purchasing contraception, also sell the “solution” to contraceptive failure, which is abortion. Yet the federal government spends about $12 on contraceptive-related programs to every $1 spent on abstinence education.
We don’t give federal grants to tobacco companies to teach students “low-risk” forms of smoking on the grounds that “kids are going to smoke anyway.” We shouldn’t be giving federal grants to groups that sell contraception, to teach kids to use contraception.
It is time for the federal government to get out of the sex education business once and for all.
If for some reason, you are unable to obtain the resources listed below online, send me $10 for my costs and I’ll send you paper copies in the mail.
“Contraceptive Failure in the First Two Years of Use: Differences Across Socioeconomic Subgroups,” Nalini Ranjit, Akinrinola Bankole, Jacqueline E. Darroch and Susheela Singh. Family Planning Perspectives, Vol 33, No. 1. January/February 2001, pp. 19-27.
“Contraceptive Failure Rates: New Estimates From the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth,” Haisahn Fu, Jacqueline E. Darroch, Taylor Haas, and Nalini Ranjit, Family Planning Perspectives, Vol 31, No. 2. March/April 1999, pp. 56-63.
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at jennifer-roback-morse.blogspot.com
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