Animosity for abstinence

Posted: Oct 25, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Four weeks ago in New Jersey, to avert political embarrassment, the Democrat party replaced the ethically challenged Sen. Bob Torricelli on the ballot with the aging former senator and Torricelli nemesis, Frank Lautenberg. This bold and reckless maneuver was carried out without voters' consent and was arrogantly accomplished for one simple reason -- to retain power and relevancy in the Senate. With the blessing of the state's Supreme Court, the Democrat Party ignored the will of the people and the rule of law for its own self interest. Having witnessed this power-grab, the 175,000-member New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) decided to steal a page from the Democrat's playbook. For the teacher's union, what is at stake is its ability to indoctrinate New Jersey public school students with failed liberal sex-education propaganda. Faced with mounting evidence that sexual abstinence programs work, free sex activists and their allies in the education industry are trying to silence abstinence advocates. This month in the Garden State, the New Jersey Education Association demonstrated its intolerance for chastity by banning three pro-abstinence speakers from the group's annual conference in Atlantic City. The NJEA told Bernadette Vissani and doctors Johanna Mohn and James Thompson, who are affiliated with the New Jersey Coalition for Abstinence Education, that their sexual abstinence presentations were irrelevant to New Jersey teachers and they were not welcome to speak to the conference. Preventing teen pregnancy can be better achieved, the union insists, by teaching students so-called "safe sex" methods. Apparently the laws of nature mean as much to the New Jersey Education Association as election laws do to Bob Torricelli and Frank Lautenberg. Having foisted "comprehensive sex education" on public school students for over 20 years, the sexual revolutionaries must now contend with the fact that from 1971 to 1988, the percentage of adolescent females having premarital sex increased 66 percent. This has caused nearly four in 10 young women to become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20 and has resulted in the United States having the highest rates of teen pregnancy and birth rates in the Western world, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. But as abstinence programs have become more popular over the past decade, there are signs of improvement. The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control show that the national pregnancy rate for teen-agers has declined 19 percent since 1991. While premarital sexual activity among female teen-agers was skyrocketing during the 1970s and 1980s, it has declined 6 percent since 1988. From 1992 to 1996, the teen pregnancy rates across the country dropped 13 percent, but in New Jersey it stayed the same. So in 1996, New Jersey's official Core Curriculum Content Standards mandated that "sex ed" instruction must stress the benefits of sexual abstinence until marriage and discuss the failure rate of condoms and other contraceptives. Since then, the NJEA has acted contemptuously toward what it calls an "onslaught of the radical right." "The abstinence-only approach is unrealistic," NJEA spokesman Karen Joseph declared. "It's the same thing as saying, 'If we prohibit driving, we will eliminate all traffic accidents.'" And proving their disdain for abstinence, the NJEA replaced pro-abstinence speakers at their conference with representatives from a Rutgers University-affiliated "safe sex" organization called the Network for Family Life Education, which declares that "abstinence-only education programs promote ignorance as opposed to values." At least one New Jersey lawmaker has had enough of the union's antics. Republican State Sen. Gerald Cardinale plans to introduce a resolution censuring the NJEA's conduct. "The NJEA has put itself firmly on the side of (those) who have advocated a 'condom only' education curriculum which stresses 'the pleasures of sex' and 'mutual masturbation' as a method to prevent sexually transmitted diseases," Cardinale notes. "These and other far-out theories contribute heavily to today's prevalence of teen-age pregnancy and other problems associated with early sexual activity." Cardinale is a decorated veteran of previous dust-ups with the education establishment. He took on the New Jersey Department of Education when it rewrote public school history standards only to omit references to the Mayflower and the Pilgrims, as well as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. The NJEA will hold its pro-copulation convention in Atlantic City next month, the site of the 2003 Miss America pageant won by 22-year old Erika Harold from Illinois. After winning the crown, Harold decided to continue urging teens to practice sexual abstinence until marriage. Like the NJEA, Miss America Pageant officials demanded that Harold keep her abstinence advice to herself, but she refused. With the help of three dozen members of Congress and an outcry of public support, pageant officials quickly backed down. John Witherspoon, Princeton University's sixth president and a New Jersey signer of the Declaration of Independence, once explained, "If your cause is just, if your principles are pure, and if your conduct is prudent, you need not fear the multitude of opposing hosts." Miss America understands this, and pro-abstinence educators must follow her lead and teach this lesson to the New Jersey Education Association.