the state

-of abstinence by jgrimsrud
Monday, 29 December 2008, 12:12
Filed under: -of health, -of jgrimsrud, -of localism, -of politik

the washington post today reports a new study from the johns hopkins bloomberg school of public health.  it found: “Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do.”  interesting…especially interesting because harrisonburg has a special place in the debate over abstinence-only education.  the ol’ dnr reported in september:

2006 Teen Pregnancy Rates Per 1,000 Females

Harrisonburg: 55.7

Rockingham County: 26.3

Virginia: 25.3

* Rates provided by the Virginia Department of Health

we’re running 22.1 per 1000 over waynesboro, the town w/ the dubious distinction of top preg rate when my wife was growing up there.

so, i’m sure local folks have taken heed of the problem and are working to provide teens w/ education, contraceptives, and options… ¿right?

again, the dnr:

Parents Should Talk About Sex

Katherine Baird, Teen Pregnancy Prevention coordinator, said it is unclear why Harrisonburg’s teen pregnancy rate is so high, but poverty could be a factor.

In 2004, 17.9 percent of Harrisonburg residents were below the poverty level, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s nearly double the state’s poverty rate of 9.5 percent that same year.

“We really don’t have a definitive answer” to the cause of the city’s teen pregnancy rate, Baird said. “But the city’s poverty rate is substantial.”

Susan Null, executive director of the Harrisonburg Pregnancy Center, said the statistics show that “there’s a huge need for abstinence education.”

She said it’s important for parents to talk to their children about the risks associated with premarital sex.

Parents should “not just talk about abstinence, but talk about why abstinence makes sense,” Null said. “Not only is there a risk of unplanned pregnancy, but there’s a risk of a permanent infection” due to sexually transmitted diseases.

Baird agreed that parents play a vital role in helping prevent teen pregnancies.

“The best prevention is to share your family values and be an open and accessible parent,” she said. “Parents need to voice their opinions and share their values.”

yes, poverty, yes, talk about sex, and yes, need for—¡wait!  but susan null, of the harrisonburg pregnancy center, the statistics seem to show there’s a huge need for real sex education and resources??  in fact, the study in the washington post seems to say that abstinence only education is more dangerous than other methods:

“Taking a pledge doesn’t seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior,” said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. “But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking.”

i know public policy and programs take time to reform, so until we can give worthwhile education and resources locally, i suggest a modest first step: print savage love in the local paper & make sure the teens have uncensored access to the internet.


4 Comments so far
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Great link, had never seen the Savage Love column. Thanks. May I also suggest that you interview Mrs. Renee Evans-Haywood, she works at the High School and has a sobering and intelligent viewpoint on this issue (if you feel like further reporting, unlike me and my laziness).

Comment by David Miller

If MSNBC says it, it must be true right?

Comment by David Miller

glad to introduce you to dan savage & his world. the column and podcast are addictive, but his books are great too, and disarmingly persuasive.

Comment by vastate

david – could you be convinced to do that interview you suggest above? we would welcome a blog-friendly piece on the topic…sounds like a great idea. send us a line…

Comment by vastate

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