In Condoms We Trust

A recent “Primetime Live” program covered public schools whose health clinics are now surgically inserting Norplant beneath the skin of teenage girls. The practice is controversial not only because Norplant is a five year birth control device, but because it is being implanted without the permission of parents. (Yes, parents. Remember us?)

One of those interviewed was a junior high school principal, who defended the distribution of Norplant without parental permission. Her most memorable statement was, “morality is one thing, reality is another.” An interesting idea here, that we must keep morality separate from reality. Reality, of course, is everything. Hence morality is restricted to the realm of nothingness. Maybe a better approach for a school principal might be to make morality a larger part of our reality, so that our reality can become a better and safer one. (No wonder California polls showed that the highest support for school vouchers came from minority families, who are tired of sending their children off to school to get shot at and pick up a supply of condoms and graduate not knowing how to read. They’d love the option of choosing better schools for their kids, just like President Clinton and I do.)

The move to Norplant is just the next step in the philosophy of the last few years that has resulted in condom distribution in many public schools in America. Never mind that studies show condoms fail to prevent pregnancy at least 16% of the time. Never mind one study indicates that among young unmarried women they fail 36% of the time. Never mind that there’s a word for people who count on condoms for birth control—”parents.”

Of course, these failure rates take on incredible significance when you consider there are only a few days a month a woman can conceive anyway. How effective will the same condoms be in preventing diseases that can be passed every day of the month? When you consider that an HIV virus is 450 times smaller than a sperm, the slightest flaw, the most minuscule hole is going to result in the escape of the virus.

No wonder when a convention of 800 condom-affirming sexologists was asked if they personally would have sex with a person who is HIV infected, even with full protection of a condom, not a single one said “yes.” They know something our children should know. So why aren’t we telling them? Telling them that there’s also a word for people who count on condoms for disease prevention. That word is “infected,” which in many cases will end up meaning “dead.”

Our Surgeon General, Jocelyn Elders, adorns her desk is with a “Condom Tree.” Dozens of different colors of condoms hang from it. Elders refused to recall a huge batch of condoms she distributed to Arkansas teenagers (where the pregnancy rate measurably increased under her reign), for fear that it would undermine people’s faith in the condom. Several months ago, “In Condoms We Trust” Elders made this memorable statement: “Driver education tells kids what to do in the front of the car, and we should be telling them what to do in the back of the car.” She referred, of course, not to abstaining from sex, but to using condoms when having sex. (To her, it is a given that children will have sex.) It wasn’t too much later the president’s “AIDS czar” blamed the spread of AIDS on our “Victorian morality.” Huh? Am I missing something?

What doctors know and our children should too is that wearing a condom does nothing more than remove a few bullets out of the gun’s chamber. But when you’re playing Russian roulette, eventually the one or two bullets left in the chamber are sure to kill you. Especially when taking out a few bullets makes you feel safer, so you can feel good about playing the game more often. Of course, the real solution is not to better the odds in Russian roulette, it is to stop playing it entirely. That means sexual abstinence, as curiously offensive as that concept seems to be in some quarters. How can anyone still favor the “wink and give them condoms” approach when both research and common sense tell us it has never done anything but help create the exact problem we need to solve

Since the government, with Planned Parenthood as its trusted Lieutenant, began its large scale sex education programs twenty-five years ago, teen pregnancies and teen sexual diseases have escalated. Planned Parenthood’s approach has been tried. It has failed miserably. If I may use the “A-word,” isn’t it time to get more serious about abstinence? By serious I do not mean including abstinence on the list of approaches, then saying to our children, “of course, most of you are having sex, or you’re going to be having sex by the time the term’s over, so let’s get real and focus on condoms and Norplant.”

When three eighth grade girls who were sexually active with numbers of partners were interviewed on the “Prime Time Live” program, Diane Sawyer asked them if they would do anything different if they could start over. All three said they would wait until they were married to have sex. For various reasons they were all very sorry. Like any good liberal, Diane seemed very surprised by this revelation, and didn’t follow up on it at all. The central point of the program was the importance of schools distributing condoms and the merit of Norplant’s five year birth control solution. The program did not pick up on the girls’ deep regrets at their lost virginity. It was the perfect opportunity—totally missed because of the presuppositions of the interviewer and producers—to teach the concept of “secondary virginity.” If sexual activity for teens is psychologically harmful and physically dangerous, which studies confirm that it is, we must offer them a chance to go back, to start over with new values and new commitments. We must offer them help in developing their self-control, help them to “just say no” to sex as we help them to “just say no” to drugs.

Yet the amazing fact is that we have congressmen (guess who contributes heavily to their reelection war chest) lobbying against the paltry few million dollars recently set aside to teach our children abstinence, while giving unqualified support to the hundreds of millions of dollars given to “safe sex” programs. They should be ashamed of themselves. In the old days they would have been called dirty old men for encouraging children to be sexually active. I’m not sure they deserve to be called anything better now.

Recently Hollywood has gotten behind these safe sex programs. Yes, the same Hollywood which shows teenagers hopping in the sack with each other on a routine basis, which makes millions on teenage sex and violence films. Hollywood has an investment in this issue. If American raised a generation of people committed to say “no” to promiscuity, morals-of-an-alley-cat Hollywood would lose a lot of its appeal, not to mention revenues. Given its track record, when Hollywood supports one side in this debate, it should be enough to convince us to throw our lot with the other side. (Why is it so politically fashionable to be concerned about polluting rivers but so unfashionable to be concerned about polluting minds?)

Various abstinence centered programs have sprung up across the country, and a number of them look excellent. Best of all, they gives students a real choice. If they want to, they can choose the Hollywood way, the Planned Parenthood way, the way of “safe sex” Russian Roulette. But if they do they should know the profound physical and psychological risks. They should also know there is a another way, a higher way, a better way. I have never met a person who looks back in regret at having abstained from sex before marriage. But I have talked with many people who are sorry they didn’t wait, who are plagued by comparisons and doubts and fear of disease and wondering if their marriage will last when both partners proved by their premarital sex that marriage was not sacred to them.

The key, as someone has said, is not “safe sex” but “saved sex.” That’s why on her thirteenth birthday I gave my oldest daughter a heart necklace with a keyhole, symbolizing a commitment to saving herself for one man, giving him the key to her body on her wedding night and not before. When my younger daughter turns thirteen in another few months, I look forward to doing the same for her. Of course, our children must own the conviction themselves, but it is our duty and privilege to encourage them to follow the Lord in sexual purity, which is not only for his glory, but for their good.

“Just say No” is necessary but not sufficient. We must teach our children to “Just Say Yes” to obeying God, self-control, fidelity and mutual respect. Alley cats and rodents regularly engage in sex with any available partner. What raises us above animals is understanding, insight, and foresight. We understand how life works, the long-range consequences of our decisions. Sex is not just something we do, it is someone we are. It is tied to our innermost being. Condom distribution and Norplant are just attempts to get away with acting like animals. Instead, we should teach our children how to act like people. That is, after all, what they are, isn’t it? And if we teach them it’s okay to act like animals in this area, why should we be surprised when they steal and rape and kill without mercy, behaving “like animals” in other areas as well?

One last thought. How long will it be before our public schools will be inundated with a flood of lawsuits? Those districts where Norplant is implanted under the skin without parental consent, when a single aspirin cannot be given without parental consent, are not just doing a disservice to children and their parents, but are setting themselves up for great financial risk. Since they have no money of their own, but only our tax money, all of us will pay for this. (This is good to remember when we are told we don’t have the right to influence what goes on in our schools.) Any trial lawyer will tell you schools could be attacked on the basis of promises of safety which the consumer, the child, believed and expected to be true. The promises of “safe sex” of course, are proven false with every contracted disease and pregnancy when school condoms were in use.

Think about it. Following the lead of Planned Parenthood, schools are now distributing false information and/or defective products. Since the statistics clearly show this already, the schools cannot even plead ignorance or sincerity. No warning of risks have been distributed with the product. No warnings of possible defects in design or production. The reasonably foreseen risks are not stated, which is a direct violation of consumer protection laws. Plus, schools may be held liable for inaccurate, incomplete, and incorrect training in use of the product. Such lawsuits may becomes paradise for trial lawyers, collecting their commissions from the tragedies of betrayed children whose mistake was believing what they were told at school.

If we don’t wake up to our personal and moral responsibility to our children, perhaps what will finally get our attention is the financial implications.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries