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|Standing For Abstinence||01/22/2004|
Amid the partisan politics surrounding the president's State of the Union speech last week, there was a curious reaction to one particular point. Sure, it was no surprise that Ted Kennedy shook his head in disdain when President Bush championed his efforts to provide prescription drug coverage for senior citizens. And when he announced that the world was a better place without Saddam ruling Iraq, Hillary Clinton reluctantly stood and halfheartedly applauded. These are issues in which the Democrats and Republicans disagree. Even where there is some agreement, the campaign year dictates that they highlight their differences rather than their similarities.
But at one point, half of Congress sat on their hands in what I can only hope was a purely political gesture, because if it was a point of genuine disagreement, then the state of our union is indeed in jeopardy.
The president declared, "We will double federal funding for abstinence programs, so schools can teach this fact of life: Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases."
From one side of the aisle, silence.
Prior to this declaration, the president argued, "To encourage right choices, we must be willing to confront the dangers young people face, even when they are difficult to talk about. Each year, about 3 million teenagers contract sexually transmitted diseases that can harm them, or kill them, or prevent them from ever becoming parents. In my budget, I propose a grassroots campaign to help inform families about these medical risks."
Certainly, the president was addressing something greater than a public health issue. Abstinence appeals to his conservative base--those who view sexual activity outside of marriage as morally wrong. At the same time, the medical and biological arguments cannot be debated. If a high school girl is not sexually active, she cannot become pregnant. If a junior high boy is not sexually active, he cannot contract a sexually transmitted disease, nor can he infect others. These are non-partisan facts.
Perhaps the disagreement lies in the spending of federal funds for such a program. Given the deficit, even some liberals occasionally find themselves arguing for a more cautious approach to spending. However, a recent report from the Heritage Foundation reveals that for every dollar we spend on abstinence, we pay out $12 on "safesex" and contraception -- two programs with a much higher failure rate than abstinence! If the Democrats in Congress are concerned about additional federal spending (which is, I realize, hard to imagine), then why not support a more balanced approach to the use of the existing budget?
Even if the abstinence movement appeals to a conservative or religious group, what is our other option? Under the banner of separation of church and state, should we crusade for sexual activity on the part of every student in our public schools? In addition to handing out condoms on campus, should we build a wing of cheap motel rooms and rent them by the hour to offset the cost of contraceptives and help fund government excess?
How can promoting abstinence as an option, either morally or medically, be such a divisive issue? As citizens, we must remind our representatives and other would-be elected officials that election year fever is no excuse for moral blindness. Abstinence is not a Republican issue. The well-being of our children is much bigger than any political agenda or party. If we cannot stand for abstinence as an option, we will be foolishly encouraging America's youth to make negative, life-altering choices. Instead, let's inspire the next generation to pursue those things that matter most. "Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace" (2 Tim. 2:22).