The government absolutely lied about the claim that 1 in 4 teenage girls has an STD, says The National Journal. You might remember that statistic because it was used as a cudgel for weeks against abstinence education. Well guess what? It was a lie.
On March 11, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that one in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease.
This eye-opening statistic landed like a dead rat on the doorsteps of America’s 37 million households and 30 million teenagers. The New York Times, among other papers, put the news on the front page. CBS news anchor Katie Couric told her viewers that “at least one in four teenage girls in America has a sexually transmitted disease,” and she ended by saying, “I know what I’ll be talking about at the dinner table tonight.”
The one-in-four number “really caught every parent in America’s attention,” said Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, because it is so simple and “so stunning.” Richards said that her 17-year-old daughter read it “and personalized it, and said, ‘There are some girls I know who have an STI’ ”—shorthand for sexually transmitted infection. “It really brought it home.”
Rival Washington advocates pounced on the CDC’s startling statistic. One faction, led by Planned Parenthood and other groups that get federal grants, said the number shows that the Bush administration’s abstinence-promotion programs don’t work and that funding should be transferred to sex-education and condom-distribution programs.
The New York Times breathlessly ran the story on their front page to attack the Bush Administration’s “abstinence-only programs,” quoting the president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards as saying, “The national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure and teenage girls are paying the real price.”
But here’s the thing: Unfortunately for this claim, lower rates of sexual activity has, indeed, brought down the number of STDs in the U.S.
On March 11, the CDC issued their press release announcing a study that made the claim, but did not release the full study. Suspicious?
The National Journal writes that:
A close examination of the CDC’s star statistic reveals several serious shortcomings that undermine its validity, as well as its usefulness to parents, legislators, health officials, and advocacy groups on the left and the right.
You see, the media confused the word “disease” with the word “infection” because so did the CDC. The CDC press release said, “1 in 4Teenage Girls Has a Sexually Transmitted Disease.” That is a lie.
You see, our bodies harbor many many infections at any given time without that infection instigating a full blown disease. Our bodies suppress infections without our knowledge all the time. But the media put the word “disease” in where the word “infection” belonged.
And as all the newspapers, television shows, and radio programs hyped the information and featured guest who damned the failure of abstinence education the CDC stayed mum about the misinterpretation. An April 23 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee showcased Chairman Henry Waxman declaring: “A few weeks ago, the CDC released data showing that one in four teenage girls in the U.S. has a sexually transmitted infection.… We will hear today from multiple experts that after more than a decade of huge government spending, the weight of the evidence doesn’t demonstrate abstinence-only programs to be effective.”
Still the CDC said nothing.
Even more amazingly is that the CDC failed to release evidence that abstinence is working among the young.
Other CDC research shows that infection rates for most serious sexual diseases, including syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid, are sharply below 1990 levels—syphilis reached a historic low in 2000. The CDC’s tests showed that none of the 18- and 19-year-old women in the study were infected with HIV or syphilis, but officials did not mention this success in the press release. Teenagers’ exposure to STDs has also dropped because their sexual activity declined from 1998 to 2002. The decline was 20 percent among girls, and 40 percent among boys, according to the CDC report, “Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, 2002,” last updated in March 2006.
The CDC, of course, said none of this. So, not only did they lie in order to create bad news, they covered up some good news.
Now, of course, the media will do nothing to ever correct this story. And the CDC will continue issuing press releases blasting abstinence education. And Planned Parenthood will use these old and misguided stories to convince people that abstinence training doesn’t work and they should be passing out condoms and patches like vitamins. So much damage will be done through their lies and eventually abstinence education will be abandoned as a failure and more children will get sick and die. I wonder if there will be secularist humanist protesters saying, “The government lied, children died.” I doubt it. They’ll consider the whole thing a victory for freedom or something really sad like that.
June 4, 2008 at 6:38 am
This story should be required reading. And the press should be reporting this story as a scandal. I’m going to print this out and show it to a few people who mentioned the original story to me.
June 4, 2008 at 2:06 pm
The NIH study on condoms a few years ago is another example of how government agencies use study results to skew what is really happening in order to continue the “safe sex” campaign. The study has been used to tout the benefits of condoms in reducing exposure to STDs, but the BEST showing of condoms was with HIV/AIDS where they had an 85% reduction; that means that 15% of those using condoms while engaging in sex with an infected person will still contract the disease. And it gets worse with other diseases. The next best were at 50% and then there were several (syphylis included) that showed no reduction with condom use. So much for “safe” sex, huh?
June 4, 2008 at 2:20 pm
In a similar, yet dis-similar vein, I was hearing how young girls are being lined up with the Genetal Herpes vaccine in schools.
I couldn’t help but feel that this program was all but waving on promiscuity. no?
June 4, 2008 at 4:06 pm
Remember Joycelyn Elders, the Surgeon General under the Clintons. She distributed free condoms to children. And after learning they were faulty said nothing because she thought it more important that the children have confidence in condoms rather than actually being protected.
June 5, 2008 at 4:16 pm
I did not take the original seriously because its sample size was too small for that extrapolation to have been made in the first place. I think it was about 1600 at the most (and I think I may have doubled the original number).
June 6, 2008 at 9:23 pm
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June 6, 2008 at 9:24 pm
Thank you for bringing this to the light of day. When I read the originaly article, especially Newsday’s version, I thought I was in the twilight zone. I mean, here we have “proof” that 1 in 4 teen girls is getting an STD and there’s people who want to encourage pre-marital sex!? That blew me away. Not to mention a quoted Long Island woman bashing the abstinence education she received. I wish I went to her school, because at my Long Island high school, abstinence was scoffed at, followed by a 3 week lesson on how to put on a “magical” condom.