The very first virgin birth (an event many are preparing to celebrate later this month) didn’t make the newspapers, if only because there weren’t newspapers in Bethlehem during King Herod’s reign. Had The New York Times existed, it surely would have noted the birth of “a homeless child,” as Hillary Clinton described Jesus in 1999.
But today, an apparent rash of virgin births is in the news. “Success of abstinence in cutting teen pregnancies is a ‘myth’,” reported a headline in the London Daily Telegraph on Dec. 1. “Sexual abstinence as an effective tool in reducing teenage pregnancy is a complete ‘myth,’ the [British] Government’s advisory body on the issue claimed yesterday,” the story began, leading a reader to the logical conclusion that at least some girls who had abstained ended up pregnant, anyway.
Well, now. For years, most of us have believed that abstinence was a completely effective “tool” in reducing pregnancy, whether among teenagers or older folks. After all, those who abstain from sex, we naively thought, cannot become pregnant.
So if abstaining gives only “mythical” protection against pregnancy, we can only hope that the “experts” (and who wouldn’t want to be an intercourse expert?) have outlined a course of action that will actually work. And so they have. “The Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy said that research from the United States showed that contraception was the way to bring down rates,” the Telegraph story added helpfully.
So, to review: abstinence doesn’t prevent pregnancy. Contraception prevents pregnancy. Film at 11 (now that’ll boost those sagging TV news ratings.) All right, let’s be serious. This story is silly on two levels. First, because of course everyone knows that abstinence works. Excepting Mary, throughout history zero percent of women who abstained from sex became pregnant. And, as a bonus, zero percent contracted sexually transmitted diseases.
Second, this story highlights the backward approach our country has taken to preventing pregnancy. We give teenagers advice but assume they’ll ignore it. “You should abstain from sex,” we tell high schoolers. “But, if you don’t, here’s a condom and a handy instruction book to show you how to use it.” Imagine if our government approached really important topics -- such as seatbelt use -- this way. “Wearing a seatbelt will make you safer,” the PSAs would announce. “But if you refuse to wear one, here’s how to duck as your airbag deploys.”