Public Health and Contraception

Two of the most controversial issues in the last few years have been the availability of safe and effective contraception, especially emergency contraception, and the Bush administration’s funding of abstinence-only education programs. Debate on these issues often has been portrayed by religious fundamentalists as a debate over sexual morality, with abstinence the presumptively “moral” way to prevent pregnancy. The Center for Inquiry’s position papers on Public Health and Contraception and on The Importance of Appropriate Sexuality Education demonstrate that this is a thoroughly misguided way to approach these issues. First and foremost, the availability of contraception is a public health issue. Safe and effective contraception is essential to protect individuals from sexually transmitted infections and prevent unwanted pregnancies. It is also critical for allowing individuals, especially women, to have appropriate control over their sexual expression. With respect to abstinence-only education, these programs have been shown to be ineffective in preventing pregnancy. Moreover, because they do not provide appropriate knowledge about sexuality, they needlessly expose teenagers and young adults to sexually transmitted infections as well as a distorted understanding of human sexual expression. The failure and dangers of abstinence-only education show, once again, the folly of basing public policy on religious doctrine instead of sound science.

Public Health and Contraception is authored by Margaret Brown, Ph.D. Dr. Brown received her doctorate degree in Family Studies from the University of Delaware. As a Family Specialist, Cooperative Extension, University of Delaware, Dr. Brown has identified for parents and legislators “recommended practices” to promote positive adolescent sexuality development based on published research studies. She has also chaired the Sexuality Committee of a national Extension group which promoted the inclusion of evidence-based practices regarding adolescent sexuality in Extension programming for youth.

The Importance of Appropriate Sexuality Education was authored by Dr. Brown, Gwen Brewer, Ph.D. and Michael J. Migdal, Ph.D. Dr. Brewer is an emeritus professor at California State University, Northridge, where she taught courses in early modern English literature and women’s studies. She is now active in numerous organizations, including the Center for Inquiry, the ACLU, and the League of Women voters. Dr. Migdal earned a Ph.D. in social psychology from Syracuse University. His research focused on group perception and stereotyping.

Public Health and Contraception was released and distributed by CFI in November 2006, but is posted here for the first time in conjunction with its companion study, the Importance of Appropriate Sexuality Education.