By Steve Jordahl, correspondent
October 8, 2002
Abstinence education is finding support among a growing number of medical doctors.
Critics of abstinence education for teens have long argued it’s just an agenda of conservative churches and organizations with a moral ax to grind. But overwhelming medical evidence is winning over a growing number of doctors. Dr. Frederic Brown typifies those who have concluded that condoms aren’t medically viable to prevent disease.
When young women come to see Brown, the only message they will get about condoms is that they don’t work as advertised. But it wasn’t always so.
“In the 1980s, I practiced permissive sexual advice,” Brown said. “I had the feeling that teenagers would inevitably be sexually active and recommended birth control pills and condoms.”
What changed his mind?
“The facts,” Brown said. “I didn’t realize until the mid-’90s that the scientific facts showed that condoms were not effective.”
Brown is one of more than 20,000 physicians who now believe that abstinence is the only answer to a sexually transmitted disease epidemic. Dr. Joe McIlhaney, who heads the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, said there is really no other option.
“If condoms don’t work, and there is no other protection for sexually active unmarried people, then that means their choice to avoid these diseases is to remain sexually abstinent,” McIlhaney said. “That’s a medical statement.”
It is a message that is hitting home with younger patients, McIlhaney said. Surprisingly, though, it is the adults who are resisting the message.
“As a matter of fact, the data show how strongly the kids feel about this and how we as adults often are so fatalistic about our kids and think in one sense that they’re just ‘animals.'”
McIlhaney is quick to point out that parents are still the greatest influence on a child’s behavior. He said there are now 24 known sexually transmitted diseases — compared to only two when he started medical school.
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