November 27, 2013

“Parents for Sex Ed Choice” Approach Denies Teens Info, Reduces “Choice”

To The Editor

As one of the Princeton Rotary Club volunteers who prepared food for the HiTOPS half-marathon runners and spectators, I noted with interest the letter from Wai Far Bazar, Aileen Collins, and Joanmarie Zetterberg in your November 20th edition (“Parents for Sex Ed Choice Respond to Half-Marathon Benefitting HiTOPS”). They used the half-marathon event as a platform for expressing their opposition to the approach used by HiTOPS to prevent teen pregnancies and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The letter-writers and their organization are pressing for an abstinence-only approach to sex education instead of the more balanced approach favored by 85 percent of our nation’s parents, and utilized by HiTOPS, which also teaches adolescents how to prevent pregnancy and disease.

Countless studies by the Center for Disease Control, Journal of Adolescent Health, and other respected organizations have shown that abstinence-only education ultimately had “no impact” at all on rates of sexual abstinence. These studies have also shown that states, where sex education and health classes stress “abstinence-only” rank the highest in the numbers of underage pregnancies. Abstinence may be a healthy behavioral option for teens, but abstinence as a sole option for adolescents according to the Society for Adolescent Medicine is scientifically and ethically problematic. Moralizing, sanctimony, and withholding information about alternatives for disease and pregnancy prevention promote questionable and inaccurate opinions and can deny teens fundamental human rights to health, information and life.

When I reared my three children and five stepchildren through their teen years to become adults, I wish that I could have insulated them from the sexually-charged TV programs, movies, and popular song lyrics that permeate our modern society. They’ve turned out well, but it was tough going up against the power of the media. The best I could hope to do is to encourage moral behavior and abstinence but also make sure that they had other options to prevent pregnancy and the spread of disease in case they had chosen another path.

Promoting a specific moral viewpoint and withholding the kind of information and services offered by HiTOPS is inherently coercive and denies young people the information needed to make informed choices. The approach to sex education advocated by “Parents for Sex Ed Choice” reduces “choice” and has repeatedly been proven to result in more unwanted pregnancies and a greater transmission rate of STDs which may be incurable and/or fatal. That is a consequence that I don’t believe that most parents would want for their children.

Lewis A. Edge, Jr.

Cleveland Road West