November 4th 2000

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Articles from this issue:

United States: Clinton’s legacy to determine U.S. presidential poll

Editorial: Telstra’s infrastructure - public service

Agriculture: Apples - who’s fooling whom?

Canberra Observed: Whitlam's apologia on East Timor role

National Affairs: Economic conversion for Democrats' leader?

Taxation: Why the attack on family trusts?

Telecommunications Inquiry: Telstra's country services deficient - TSI report

The Media


Straws in the Wind

The courts and commercialised medicine

Drugs: Needle exchange programs - the shocking reality

Family: Medical professor endorses the condom culture

Society: Markets and morals

Books promotion page

Family: Medical professor endorses the condom culture

by Bill Muehlenberg

News Weekly, November 4, 2000
Professor Roger Short of Melbourne University has recently argued that condoms, the contraceptive pill and the morning-after pill should be freely distributed to school children aged 13 and over in an attempt to curb teenage pregnancy and abortions. The reproduction specialist from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology said that Australia has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the developed world, and such radical measures are needed to turn things around.

Such proposals, however, are in fact a recipe for disaster. For 30 years now we have had a campaign of comprehensive sex education, contraception and condom distribution. In spite of such efforts, teenage sexuality rates have continued to rise, as have the levels of sexually transmitted diseases and abortions. Thus what is being offered here is a failed approach. It has been tried and found wanting.

There are a number of reasons why the current approach should be dropped.

* The call for condom and contraception handouts in high schools reveals a condescending attitude to young people. It says our young people are little more than animals, unable to control themselves. We are telling our young people we don't really care about them enough to put time into their lives to help them make lifelong rewarding decisions. We'd rather just hand them a Band-Aid and hope for the best. Moreover, even if half of our young people are sexually active, half are not. The solution is not to encourage the 50% to begin experimenting.

* It deals with the consequences of a person's actions, instead of tackling the root causes. With other behavioural/social problems, such as racism or smoking, we take a clear stand. If we don't want our young people to do something, we discourage it; we don't simply protect them from the consequences of their actions.

Abstinence and behaviour-based programs are proving to be far more effective. As but one example, in Africa, where the spread of HIV/AIDS is rampant, Uganda is leading the way in turning the epidemic around. Top on its agenda are behavioural-based policies which emphasise the truth that if you abstain from certain practices, you greatly reduce the chances of getting the consequences. Such a strategy has proven effective not only in Uganda but elsewhere.

One study, published in the left/liberal Atlantic magazine found that abstinence based programs, coupled with parental involvement, are the most effective forms of sex education available. And here in Australia, Dr Barry Earp has demonstrated that abstinence-based sex education is "more effective in lowering rates of abortion and teenage pregnancy than programs that just rely on information about the use of various contraceptives".

* Condoms do no provide safe sex. C.M. Roland, editor of Rubber Chemistry and Technology, has said that "rubber contraceptives are inherently unable to make sex safe". He says that condoms have holes 50 times the size of an AIDS virus. The inventor of the lubricated condom, Dr Malcolm Potts even admitted, "We don't know how much protection condoms give". Another researcher said, "Available data now indicate that efficacy of condoms has been largely overestimated".

The British Medical Journal says the overall failure rate of condoms due to slippage and breakage is 26%. Other recent studies found condom failure rates as high as 36% and 38%. A woman can get pregnant only one or two days a month - but she can get an STD 365 days a year.

* Throwing condoms at young people sends out the wrong message. Consider the analogy of drink drivers. To warn others, we could issue them with revolving red lights. This scheme might minimise road deaths. But surely the goal is do prevent drink driving in the first place, not just to make it safer for drink drivers.

* In America hundreds of schools have been distributing condoms for quite some time - long enough to see how effective such a strategy is. As one example: Adams City High School in Colorado was the first school in America to freely distribute condoms. They now have a pregnancy rate one-third higher than the national average. Why use our young people as guinea pigs in an experiment that has been tried elsewhere and has been found wanting?

* Such programs are a slap in the face to parents. Parents have a right to know about their children's sexuality. Indeed, a student needs parental permission to get a Panadol. Why should they get free contraceptives without parental knowledge?

A comprehensive study reported in the September 1997 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the most significant means of protecting teenagers against sexual and other forms of risk behaviour was parental and family connectedness. Yet Professor Short wants the exact opposite, to drive a wedge between parent and child.

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