When abstinence pledgers do get round to vaginal sex they are a third less likely to use contraceptives because, as a Columbia University study says, they're not 'prepared for an experience that they promised to forego'. Which has the knock-on knock-up effect of a greater level of teenage pregnancy, the very opposite of what it purports to encourage.
And as George Monbiot's pointed out, it's the poor and the women that suffer for it.
Teenage pregnancies are overwhelmingly concentrated at the bottom of the social scale: the teenage daughters of unskilled manual labourers are ten times as likely to become pregnant as middle-class girls. According to the United Nations agency Unicef, women born into poverty are twice as likely to stay that way if they have their children too soon. They are more likely to be unemployed, to suffer from depression and to become dependent on alcohol or drugs.
Monbiot documents Bush's adherance to abstinence whaever its actual effect:
When his cherished abstinence programmes failed to reduce the teenage birthrate, he instructed the US Centers for Disease Control to stop gathering data. He also forced them to drop their project identifying the sex education programmes which work, after they found that none of the successful ones were “abstinence-only”. Bush should also hope that we don’t look too closely at his record as governor of Texas. He spent $10m on abstinence campaigns there, with the result that Texas has the 4th-highest rate of HIV infection in the Union, and the slowest decline of any state in the birthrate among 15-17 year-olds.
If they're so willing to damn their own people for being poor and/or female, it's not surprising the American government care even less about those abroad. One of the first things the Bush adminstration did was to issue the 'global gag' order, cutting funding to international agencies that offer support to women seeking abortion.
"We are facing a disaster," says David Adriance, a Nairobi health care worker with EngenderHealth, a US-based organisation that provides reproductive health care services for the world's poorest women. "We have the largest cohort of young people that the world has ever known. These kids are hitting reproductive age and we have nothing in place for them. No sex education. No contraception. Few services."
Preventing unwanted pregnancy and unwanted parenthood is not only empowering to the women directly affected, it has a role in helping those who are yet to be born. Once the decline of oil production produces economic collapse, we're going to have tremendous problems feeding the current population.
By the middle of the century there will be 40% more people than today, and climate change will have done away with a significant portion of our ability to produce food. We need less people fighting for the available resources, not more. Surely the best place to start with population control is those who aren't here yet and aren't wanted.
But a lack of contraceptive and abortion information and availability generates greater numbers of unwanted pregnancies. With the global gag, many women have to go for unsafe abortions outside of proper medical circumstances. According to a horrifying report by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, 19 million women will have unsafe abortions this year of whom 70,000 will die agonising appalling deaths. That's 200 a day.
Despite its importance, all this is old news. The reason I'm bringing it up is to give some credit where it's due. The IPFF report was produced at the behest of the UK government's Department for International Development. A department more used to forcing privatisation of essential services in poor countries, and a government more used to following the American lead have surprised me. In the light of the report, a fund called the Global Safe Abortion Programme is being set up specifically to replace the money lost from the Bush 'global gag'. The founder donor is the UK government's DfID.
It's only £3m - we spend a third of that amount every year just keeping Cabinet ministers (and the odd ex-minister) in limosines - but to the hundreds of thousands of women it helps, it will be invaluable.
Furthermore, on a political level it bodes well. As a donation to an anti-US cause from such a US ass-kisser, it makes it easy for any other prosepctive donor country to step forward.
I'm always sceptical when the government does something I wholeheartedly approve of, I always get the feeling I've been hoodwinked. Have I missed something?