Wisconsin Passes Abstinance Law for Unmarried Couples

Wisconsin has passed a law requiring schools to teach abstinance as the preferred behavior for unmarried couples. AP notes that “The legislation means teachers must emphasize that refraining from sex before marriage is the most effective way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.” and that “Republican Sen. Mary Lazich, a bill’s sponsor, said sex education teachers can still teach about birth control, but must emphasize that abstinence is the only 100 percent effective method to avoid health risks.”

That those things are objectively true is not in dispute. Whether sending that message is an appropriate use of school time is a debatable question. Moreover, it’s not clear whether we’re going to actually modify the behavior of adolescents with the message that “Sex is bad, m’kay?”

This is interesting:

The birth rate among Wisconsin teens ages 15-19 decreased by 27 percent between 1993 and 2004, from 41 to 30 births per 1,000 females, according to the most recent government survey. But the overall infection rate of the four top sexually transmitted diseases increased by 3 percent among teens during that time.

I continue to wonder why this statistic always includes the 15-19 range, which combines people we now consider children (15-17) and those who are legally adults (18-19). Certainly, the emotional reaction to seeing that stat is that 3 percent of teenage girls are getting pregnant; most likely, the preponderance of the births in this range are to 18- and 19-year-olds.

FILED UNDER: Education, Health,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. John Burgess says:

    I think the age range is meant to encompass the typical High School ages, not any particular legal status.

  2. James Joyner says:

    John: Could well be, although most people are out of high school by 19. Still, it’s not a useful grouping for analysis of this sort.

  3. Kent says:

    I don’t think the message is “Sex is bad, m’kay?” It’s “Unmarried teenage sex is bad, m’kay?” It’s an important and not particularly subtle distinction.

  4. Kent, that just makes the age range used in the analysis more problematic, not less so. I know Wisconsin isn’t the same as the deep south, but here in Alabama it’s not at all uncommon for women to be married at 18 or 19. While I’m sure it’s more common here than there, at 18 or 19 you can’t just assume that these women are unmarried anymore. Whatever the number is, I’m sure it’s statistically significant.

    I’m not saying that we should be encouraging 18 year old women to get married and have babies. But if we’ve decided that the problem is sex before marriage, let’s make sure we’re using statistics that actually measure that instead of numbers that measure something else entirely.

  5. As I should have just noted, that means that the correct statistics to use in this case would be “unmarried teenage women”.

  6. ICallMasICM says:

    Public schools should stick to education and leave the indoctrination and moralizing alone.

  7. legion says:

    A completly rational policy, ICM. But one the hard-core religious right will never accept. This is the result of trying to mix church and state – the attempt to codify religious tenets into common law.

  8. LJD says:

    This is the result of trying to mix church and state – the attempt to codify religious tenets into common law.

    Dude, what are you smoking?

    But the overall infection rate of the four top sexually transmitted diseases increased by 3 percent among teens during that time.

    Regardless of your religion, or political affiliation, I would say it is fairly clear cut that teens ought to think seriously about the implications of their behavior. To tell kids using condoms makes things ‘safe’ is an outright lie.

  9. Fersboo says:

    This is the result of trying to mix church and state – the attempt to codify religious tenets into common law.

    Well then, let us remove all religion from common law. Maybe we can get rid of compassion and mercy, you know, get rid of all forms of welfare and never deliver a lesser sentence for a crime despite the uniqueness of a criminal’s circumstances.

  10. legion says:

    Compassion does not come from religion. It comes from an empathic connection with other human beings – recognition that other people are like ourselves, and that things that hurt us also hurt others. It existed before the concept of organized religion, and its absence is the key indicator of sociopathy.

    While religion is an excellent language or tool for describing justice, it is not a requirement. We do not forbid murder and mayhem just because it says so in the Ten Commandments, for example. We outlaw them because of the harm they do to both the individual and society. It’s when we go beyond that – when we choose one religion’s code over another to make our laws – that I have a problem.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Sure, teenagers will forgo sex if adults tell them to. Sounds like a slam dunk to me.

  12. Fersboo says:

    Compassion does not come from religion. It comes from an empathic connection with other human beings – recognition that other people are like ourselves, and that things that hurt us also hurt others.

    I agree with you logically that compassion does not come from religion. However, personal experience and written history have shown me that religion is usually the motivator that generates compassion, not any individual’s innate empathy. All creatures understand survival and that is generally the most dominant behavior, all others seem to be learned, IMHO. Whereas, any religion taken to an extreme is undesirable (even anti-religion), most religions teach the basics of lawfulness to those who live within society.

    While I do not consider myself an expert in the area of law, history or religion, the fact that Hammurabi’s Code is believed to be the first written codification of laws with Hammurabi claiming within his code that he was essentially a messenger of the top god, a god himself, lends itself to the conclusion that law and religious are tied together much greater than most are willing to admit.

    I would believe that the three religions that are a part of Western Religion hold the same basic concepts. I know that 10 Commandments are the same for Hebrew and Christian alike and suspect that the Koran has something similar. I would also suspect that most of the benign religions are also compatible with Western Religion in this regard.

  13. floyd says:

    james; i can see why telling the truth would be a debatable use of school time in today’s public schools, but how dare they advocate appropriate behavior. that’s just stupid and disgusting. right?

  14. LJD says:

    It̢??s when we go beyond that Рwhen we choose one religion̢??s code over another to make our laws Рthat I have a problem.

    O.K. What ‘code’ would you use then? I would not say by a long shot that your values match every one else’s.