To the dismay of kiddie condom-pushers in Hollywood and the ivory tower, abstinence education programs such as Project Reality, True Love Waits and Virginity Rules are rapidly gaining popularity among American youth. Hundreds of thousands of young men and women have signed chastity pledges as part of both faith-based and secular programs. Celebrity role models include 2003 Miss America Erika Harold and basketball star A.C. Green.
Professor Franken will no doubt argue in his new book that abstinence programs have no scientific basis. As if the failed contraceptive-centric model of the past two decades does? A peer-reviewed Pediatrics journal showed that sex-ed programs "neither increased contraceptive use, nor reduced teenage pregnancy rates." A study of 23 school-based sex-education programs, published in the May/June 1994 issue of Public Health Reports, concluded much the same. More recently, a pro-sex education study found in 2001 that out of some 250 programs, only eight (a whopping 3 percent) purportedly reduced "sexual risk-taking, pregnancy, and childbearing among teens."
Another study published in the Journal of School Health noted that "while most adolescents know condoms provide one effective way to avoid HIV infection, less than half of sexually active adolescents ages 15-17 used condoms consistently." The annual failure rate for condoms used as birth control is about 10 percent for adults; the figure doubles for teenage users.
When all else fails, health officials celebrate the number of birth-control devices distributed to teens as the ultimate measure of efficacy. But this is like measuring the effectiveness of welfare programs by the number of checks passed out.
Ridiculing chaste young people and their abstinent role models as oddballs and prudes may score Franken a few points at Hollywood and Harvard cocktail parties. But if this intellectual poseur thinks he can improve democracy through nasty pranksterism and mockery, the only one he's kidding is himself.