succumbing to peer pressure

Sunday, May 07, 2006

After rescuing my cat who looked more like a drowned rat this morning (and whom I fear is coming down with a case of the sniffles as a result) I spent the morning/afternoon at Borders indulging in coffee and the Sunday paper and a few more pages of The Devil Wears Prada (coupons = free coffee and 25% off the first half of a Mother's Day present - Madeline Albright will be in town next week doing a book signing). Thanks to the Sunday paper and it's summer movie listings I have significantly increased the length of my netflix queue (it'll save them for me until they come out on dvd around xmas, how great is that?) and gotten all riled up about the Sunday Magazine's excellent coverage of The War on Contraception (and gained a nifty new image for my office door). Here are some choice excerpts:

In addition to providing an information center for the abstinence industry that has blossomed in recent years, she takes her message directly to kids. Besides "Girls Gone Mild," she sponsors "Purity Balls," which fathers attend with their teenage daughters. "We think the relationship between fathers and their daughters is the key," she told me. At the purity ball, a father gives a "purity ring" to his daughter — a symbol of the promise she makes to maintain her virginity for her future husband. Then, during her marriage ceremony, the daughter gives the ring to her new husband. Abstinence Clearinghouse's Web site advertises the purity ball as an event "which celebrates your 'little girl' and her gift of sexual purity."

First, let me say, ew. Seriously, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. a) this whole linking of giving your virginity to your dad and then your husband is so gross and freudian and b) hi, treating women as property, much?

And, of course, the things those of us in public health, and really anyone capable of reading a study and understanding statistics, already know:

around the world, countries in which abortion is legal and contraception is widely available tend to rank among the lowest in rate of abortion, while those that outlaw abortion — notably in Central and South America and Africa — have rates that are among the highest. According to Stanley K. Henshaw of the Guttmacher Institute, recent drops in abortion rates in Eastern Europe are due to improved access to contraceptives. The U.S. falls somewhere in the middle in rate of abortion: at 21 per 1,000 women of reproductive age, it is roughly on par with Nigeria (25), much better than Peru (56) but far worse than the Netherlands (9).

The Netherlands, where the teen pregnancy rate also ranks among the lowest in the world, has long been of interest to sex educators in the U.S. for the frankness of its approach. The national sex education course, called Long Live Love, begins at age 13. One of its hallmarks has been dubbed "Double Dutch" — encouraging the use of both condoms and birth control pills. "It's proven successful," says Margo Mulder of STI AIDS Netherlands, the Dutch health education center. "It shows that when you discuss contraception and protection with students, they actually are careful. And I know that some people in the U.S. say that when you promote contraception, you're also promoting sex, but we've found that when you educate people, they don't have sex earlier. They think about it. So you're not promoting sex, you're helping them to be rational about doing it."

Sarah Brown, from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, nails it - "Here in the U.S., people are still arguing about whether it's O.K. to have sex."


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