Only Half a Child

Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

May 30, 2005

New Mexico is stepping out front of the pack in the national effort to help children retain self-control and delay sex until marriage.  New Mexico health department officials are stepping out with one foot, to teach half a child, to go half the distance…and stop.

New Mexico Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham announced in April her decision to target $500,000 in federal sexual-abstinence education funding toward elementary-school students…students sixth grade and under, generally no older than twelve.

Students twelve and under, you are encouraged to be sexually abstinent.  Students over twelve, you are encouraged to use a condom.  Half of your life you are encouraged to succeed.  The other half of your life, you are told you will probably fail.  In New Mexico.

Grisham has set teens adrift.  Concluding that they are having sex anyway, she will offer them condoms and birth control as their “best option” for a successful future.  Grisham pretends to base her plan on research.  But if you open wide the curtains, there is a bigger picture behind her policies.

In January, 2005, she fired her first attack at abstinence education in a press release challenging the national guidelines for these programs.  She wanted the money for teaching abstinence.  She just didn’t want to teach abstinence.

Parents, legislators, and educators raised the roof against this plan!  But Grisham had at least one friend in her camp.

Planned Parenthood has conducted a ten year campaign against abstinence funding.  In a July 2002 speech, Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt rallied her friends, “We can harness our power to advance our agenda by working together with one vision, one goal, one set of issues, one message spoken by many voices.”

One message, two voices?  Planned Parenthood and New Mexico?

In January, when Grisham heard the public outcry generated against her plan to sabotage abstinence education, she retreated.  But only half way.  Throwing a bone to the crowd, she agreed to promote sexual abstinence to half a child.  But the other half…the part of the child that grows up and needs this message in junior high and high school…well, Grisham figures they are a lost cause at that point.

Perhaps this is because Grisham is reading only half the research.  Could she know that a poll by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy shows that nearly 70% of teens do not believe high school students should have sex and that approximately 65% of sexually experienced young people said they “wish they had waited longer to have sex”?

Did Grisham have time to read the CDC study released December of 2004?  Did she read the half of the study crediting sexual abstinence for part of the drop in the teen pregnancy rate between 1995 and 2002?  Did she note the decline in sexual activity among teens…especially among teen boys?

In fact, during the decades when pro-condom sex education flourished without challenge, teen pregnancy rates skyrocketed.  At the highest rates of teen pregnancy in 1990, enterprising parents and educators introduced abstinence education around the country.  Since then, both teen sexual behavior and pregnancy rates have been steadily declining.

Pro-condom education accompanies a rise in teen pregnancies…and Grisham embraces pro-condom education.  Abstinence education accompanies a decline in teen pregnancies…yet Grisham rejects abstinence education for New Mexico teens.

Now, thanks to Grisham, Planned Parenthood and other organizations with access to Title X dollars will be free to carry in their condoms to junior high and high school students with promises of “protected” sex.  Protected from what?

Has Grisham read the research demonstrating the failure of condoms to deliver on “safe sex” promises?  Does the New Mexico health department have any commitment to deliver medically accurate information on condom failure rates?  If so, perhaps they could post their version of condom facts on the Department of Health website for all to see.

With one voice, Planned Parenthood and New Mexico are unified in an ideological rejection of abstinence education that defies medically sound reasons for its message and educationally sound methods for developing successful programs that teach the message.

Just when evidence is building a convincing case that abstinence education is impacting young people, bringing about a decline in teen pregnancies and helping students maintain abstinence until marriage, New Mexico officials have declared war on abstinence.

It’s a sad day for students and parents when the state health system gives up on teaching healthy choices and opts to believe that teens are incapable of restraining sexual urges.

One eye on half the research.  New Mexico has taken the lead in this parade of one foot marching…half a heart in helping half a child.

April 2, 2004:   Sex Education:  Spinning the Truth

March 14, 2005:   Does Abstinence Work?