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Abstinence-until-marriage: Congress needs to know it's cool

By Connie Marshner
web posted April 22, 2002

The times they are a-changing. A New Sexual Revolution is sweeping the country. The pendulum of social dysfunction seems finally to have reached its extreme, and has started to return to the center. Congress must decide whether it will try to hold back the pendulum, or whether it will help restore society to health.

The children of the sexual revolution are creating their own counter-revolution. The "Me Generation" of the Seventies and Eighties produced a crop of young people who lived their lives as the wounded casualties of their parents' social and sexual experimentation. They grew up with fatherlessness, divorce, and unfaithfulness. Fed a steady diet of sexual innuendo and sexual explicitness by their radios, movies, and television sets, and egged on by Planned Parenthood-style sex ed or "safe sex" classes in school, they followed their parents' path - for a while.

Now, they are turning away. Searching for truth and meaning in their lives, they are finding meaning in relationships and in sexuality. They want to do a most radical thing - connect sex with permanent relationships, with marriage. "I'm worth waiting for!" is their slogan. This budding counter-revolution has been underway for quite a while, but recently it was assisted by a little-noticed provision of the 1996 Welfare Reform law, which allocated $50 million for abstinence-until-marriage education. The idea was to see if the need for welfare could be prevented before it starts. Now President Bush is asking for a renewal of that program, plus a little more new money in another title.

But liberals want to corrupt the abstinence-until-marriage programs and turn them into the "do it but be safe" nonsense, which they are now calling "abstinence-plus". Sounds like a detergent, but this kind adds dirt instead of taking it out.

Mary-Louise Kurey, Miss Wisconsin of 1999, testified last week before the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Human Resources on behalf of a five-year extension of grants for abstinence-until-marriage training.

Kurey, an eloquent and passionate aspiring opera singer, is on the way to becoming a spokeswoman for her generation. But Congressman Jim Greenwood is carrying the torch for the Sixties. He is opposing abstinence funding even though:

  • The majority of high school students are virgins, and this percentage is increasing.
  • 93% of teens feel that teens should be given a strong message that abstinence is the best choice.
  • Most teens who have been sexually active regret doing so.
  • One out of five sexually-active teen girls in the U. S. gets pregnant.
  • One out of four sexually active American teens has a sexually-transmitted disease.
  • Condoms give no protection against diseases passed through skin contact, such as Human Papilloma Virus, the most prevalent STD and the leading cause of cervical cancer.

Young people know this, and young people are doing something about it.

Abstinence-until-marriage programs have been proven effective in reducing early sexual activity. They provide a foundation for personal responsibility and enduring marriages. These programs would not be having the success they are without the leadership of young people, like Kurey and basketball star A. C. Green, whose program "Game Plan," is one of the star curricula.

But Congressman Jim Greenwood does not want to help A. C. Green and Mary-Louise Kurey.

Popular myths to the contrary, the primary cause of teen sexual activity is not raging hormones. The real cause of teen sexual activity is emotional emptiness. It is a search by young people for acceptance, identity, purpose, or love. Everybody knows how to avoid pregnancy: why do so many teens get pregnant? Because they think it will make them somebody, that it will put someone in their life who will always love them.

Real abstinence education addresses identity, self-esteem, healthy relationships, character. It creates hope for the future. It's not "safe sex". It's not "just say no". It's not the "here are the keys but don't drive the car" kind of titillation that now calls itself "abstinence plus". Abstinence-until-marriage education is life-transforming, character-building, and soul-strengthening.

But Congressman Jim Greenwood does not want to help abstinence-until-marriage education.

Congressman Jim Greenwood is a Republican who has a 100% score from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. He is the primary Republican opponent of the President's proposal to provide money for abstinence-until-marriage education under Title V of the Social Security Act, upon which a vote is expected next week

Maybe it's because Jim Greenwood was a social worker before he became a Congressman. Perhaps in affluent Bucks County, Pennsylvania, he didn't see the pain experienced by sexually-active young people - though he saw abused children and should have been able to connect the dots.

Perhaps it's because Greenwood is the kind of Republican who thinks that taxpayers dollars shouldn't be spent on social programs. He did, after all, receive an award in 1994 from Citizens Against Government Waste. I could respect a Congressman for holding a principle like that -- if he were consistent about it. If Jim Greenwood were advocating that Congress abolish Title X, which funds the most common type of sexual experimentation programs which inhabit most schools and health departments, then being against abstinence funding might at least be consistent. But Planned Parenthood receives most of its budget from Title X, so forget about consistency. It's a simple question of whose ox is being gored.

Nor is Greenwood alone. There are other Republicans who are similarly retro, and, naturally, lots of Democrats. Smart young people nowadays know that sexual activity outside of marriage ends up hurting themselves.

Wouldn't it be cool if that message could reach the members of Congress?

Connie Marshner is director of the Center for Governance at the Free Congress Foundation.

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