The Wednesday editorial at the Chicago Tribune was one of fluff -n- stuff on the issue of teen sex and pregnancy, and included subtle jabs at social conservatives who have warned of a cultural decline as a result of the emphasis in this country on the sexy and superficial (bolded emphasis added by me):
American teenagers are awash in temptation, particularly the kind that involves pleasures of the flesh. They are exposed to racier images on television than ever before. Popular music celebrates carnal passion with unceasing gusto. And the Internet offers an endless array of graphic sexual fare. From watching “Glee” or “Gossip Girl,” you get the idea that high school is just one hookup after another.
This salacious environment is a lot for impressionable youngsters to deal with, but our kids are dealing with it surprisingly well.
So says the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports that when it comes to having babies, adolescents are not only doing better than they used to be, they’re doing better than they’ve ever done since 1946. The birth rate among teenagers fell by 8 percent from 2010 to 2011.
What accounts for the dramatic progress? A combination of less sex and more contraception has played a big part. Since 1991, the proportion of high school students who have ever had sexual intercourse has declined from 82 percent to 60 percent — a drop of more than a quarter. Adolescents are also less likely to have had several partners.
The ones having sex have gotten more careful about the consequences. Among those who have sex, the use of condoms has risen by one-third. Lately, other types of birth control also appear to have gained in popularity as well. Some 14 percent of sexually experienced teen girls have used emergency (plan B) contraceptives. But abortion has gotten less common.
The picture we get is not the raunchy abandon so often depicted in popular culture. It’s one of growing awareness of the downside of sex, more willingness to postpone it, and taking measures to prevent it from causing pregnancy.
Those steps are what parents, teachers and public health professionals have been urging on adolescents for decades now. Surprise: They’ve been listening.
I’m afraid they haven’t been listening, unfortunately, and apparently the Chicago Tribune hasn’t been reading. For all their high praise of the teen pregnancy rate lowering over the last couple of decades – which they attribute to more young people using protection or abstaining from sex, they ignored (deliberately?) key statistics from that same CDC report that render the editorial board’s assertions on the use of “more contraception” a bunch of wishful-thinking bull. From NBC’s Vitals blog:
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued two new studies of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) today detailing what the lead author of one calls “an ongoing, severe, STI epidemic.”
The studies reveal new infection data, some of it available for the first time, for the eight most common STIs — chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B, HIV, and trichomoniasis. The studies, which estimate infection rates and medical costs related to STIs, were published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
Both are startling. In 2008, there were 20 million new incidents of infection in the United States, and a prevalence (new infections plus ongoing infection) of 110 million, according to CDC estimates. (Because one person may have more than one infection, the 110 million figure does not mean 110 million people have a sexually transmitted disease.) As a result, the United States incurred estimated direct medical costs of nearly $16 billion.
Previous such estimates, for years 1996 and 2000, estimated approximately 15 million and 18.9 million new incidents respectively, though these reports used somewhat different data sources and methodology so the CDC cautions against making direct comparisons. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the American Social Health Association, and the CDC, the U.S. has the highest rate of STIs in the industrialized world.
“STIs take a big health and economic toll on men and women in the United States, especially our youth,” CDC epidemiologist Catherine Lindsey Satterwhite, who led the study of incidence and prevalence, told NBC News.
Although people age 15-24 account for only 25 percent of the nation’s sexually experienced population, Satterwhite’s study estimates they account for about half of all sexually transmitted infections.
Let’s go over that again: Yes, while the teen pregnancy rate continues to drop, young people age 15-24 account for 50% of all new STIs, even though they are only 25% of the nation’s “sexually experienced population.” Not only that, but also per the CDC comes the news that the use of the “morning after pill” as a method for birth control – primarily due to women choosing to have irresponsible, unprotected sex – has tripled in a little over ten years, most of it due to use by teens and young women in their early 20s. This is deeply troubling, and calls into question the Chicago Tribune’s implicit suggestion that teens were/are being more responsible with their bodies in spite of all of pop culture’s intense pressures to be otherwise.
While it’s great the teen pregnancy rate continues to decline, the STI “epidemic” shouldn’t and must NOT be ignored. Nor should the tripling of the use of the “morning after pill” by women who, in most cases, decided not to have SAFE SEX in spite of all miles of literature and other types of information out there that warns of the consequences. So why did the Chi-Trib do just that? I guess the opportunity to jab social conservatives was just too much for the liberal news outlet to resist. Not only that, but Democrats love to pat themselves on the back when things they advocate seemingly produce a full spectrum of positive results. So they emphasize the positives, while ignoring any negatives that may call into question their advocacy of and judgment on said issues.
Here’s the fantasy: The Chi-Trib believes increased protection usage or abstention from sex, and teens and parents “listening”, are the the reasons the pregnancy rate continues to decline. And because of that, readers should infer that what primarily liberal social organizations and politicos (and editorial boards) have been advocating for decades (explicit sex ed in the classroom) has done its job: Teens aren’t getting pregnant as much as they used to, so they simply must be choosing to be safer! In the process of praising the supposedly increased responsibility of young people, they actually praise the 14% of teen girls who used the “morning after pill”, because apparently pregnancy is the only thing we want to prevent our young people from experiencing as a result of engaging in casual sex.
Here’s the reality: Young people, teens and young men and women in their early 20s, are responsible for half of the STIs in America, even though they only make up 25% of the sexually active population. The use of the morning after pill has tripled in a little over a decade, most of it by young women who made CONSCIOUS DECISIONS not to have safe sex. Remember: the morning after pill does NOT prevent disease, so there’s no telling how many of those women who took the morning after pill instead of insisting their partner use a condom contributed to the STI stats. Same same for the men who didn’t use a condom. With all that in mind, just who is being responsible here? Not our young people, and certainly not the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune with its selective “reporting”, which does its readers a major disservice.
You shouldn’t be surprised, of course. Nor should you be particularly shocked by where I read about this. I don’t read the Chi-Trib a whole lot, but I do read the online edition of the Charlotte Observer from time to time just to see what they’re up to. Here’s their reprint (and endorsement) of the biased, one-sided, misleading Chi-Trib editorial.
Related: Via ABC News – CDC Warns of Super-Gonorrhea