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Research: STDs, Abstinence, Abortions, . . . Letter to the Editor

A Christian Response to AIDS: Research

{This letter was also printed in "The Monitor", a Freedom chain newspaper in McAllen, Texas on March 15, 1999.} To The Editor:

I read with interest your March 2nd headline, “Valley chosen for STD awareness campaign” and Ms. Gillian Swanson’s accompanying article regarding the announcement by the American Social Health Association (ASHA) touting a campaign “to make young people more aware of sexually transmitted diseases”. I am grateful that it was properly noted that the news conference was held at Edinburg’s Planned Parenthood office.

Anyone involved with AIDS/HIV or STD education in the Valley knows how difficult it is to get into the public schools to speak to students. For example, leading up to the first-ever display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt at UT-PA in 1996, Nombres de la Frontera, the host committee for the display, only counted on the support of a few districts. The primary reason for that is the popularity of so called “Abstinence-Only” programs most school boards have approved regarding sex education.

I wrote a letter (published March 23, 1993) in the Opinion page of The Monitor explaining my support for abstinence-based sex education. My opinion has not changed and the school officials, educators, and community leaders who subsequently contacted me then had my support. However, I never dreamed “abstinence-only” curriculums would preclude relevant sex education from taking place. For example, little is taught in these curriculums concerning STDs and HIV. Actually, educators are sometimes asked not to mention certain words, like “AIDS”. Parents may be equipped to educate their children on the human body and conception. However, they generally are not ready to introduce their children to chlamydia, gonorrhea, the RU-486 (“morning after”) pill, etc.

Sex education, even if abstinence based, needs to be inclusive of these topics if real education will take place. I also applaud schools who do not distribute condoms—doing so does send the wrong message. But, again, sex or abstinence education must include discussion of condoms and other contraceptive devices in a responsible manner. If parents think their high schoolers need to know how to don a condom, they need to be able to decide when to teach this, not the ASHA. And there should definitely be no distribution of these prophylactics in schools. It should be explained why use of certain prophylactics does not preclude people from getting STDs. Talking about condoms, etc. would also allow for an opportunity to discuss the idea that it is okay for a married person whom is loyal to his spouse to buy and use contraceptives, if their religious beliefs allow such use.

On a related note, approximately 70 million Americans watched the Monica Lewinsky interview by Barbara Walters on “20/20” last Wednesday night. One question Ms. Walters asked Monica was, “What will you tell your children . . . ” concerning Monica’s affair with Clinton. Monica takes it for granted that she will indeed give birth to children one day. Minutes before, Ms. Lewinsky had told us about her abortion of a child fathered by a Pentagon staffer. Both Ms. Walters and Ms. Lewinsky, as well as our children, must be reminded—or perhaps educated for the first time—about the fact that having an abortion often destroys females’s ability to have children. Neither Monica nor our young children can assume that God will grant subsequent pregnancies to post-abortion women. This information—the idea that there are some physical consequences for unsafe sexual activity--should also be included in abstinence-based programs.

Unfortunately I have little hope that these truths will be shared by this awareness campaign. My challenge to the new editor of The Monitor is to keep a close eye on the relationship between the ASHA and Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood supports abortions while they offer other services and hide behind their clever name. I don’t know what their ratio is, say on adoptions to abortions, but what number is acceptable anyway? 400 to 100? 5,000 to 1? Just last week Planned Parenthood lost a U.S. Supreme Court case supporting the “right” of minor girls in Virginia to have abortions without the consent of their parents. I hope this Health Association separates itself as much as possible from Planned Parenthood, though I won’t hold my breath. If I was a local school board member or parent I would be very hesitant about anyone rubbing shoulders with Planned Parenthood wanting to speak to my children about sex issues.

If the news of a shared $800,000 grant to cover STD education for Valley kids is good enough for your front page headline, I hope it’s good enough to assign a class reporter, such as Ms. Swanson, to cover the real effect and response of the awareness campaign through August. We need quality abstinence-based sex education. Perhaps your reporter will tell us who’s making the grade.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Daniel García Ordaz
HIV/AIDS Educator

A Christian Response to AIDS: Research

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