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Edmonton Catholic School Board trustees rejected a 'safe' sex-ed program promoted by Marilyn Bergstra, third from right.
Steve Weatherbe

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Alberta Catholic school trustee pushes program to promote ‘safe’ sex, contraception

Steve Weatherbe

EDMONTON, Alberta (LifeSiteNews) – The Edmonton Catholic School Board defeated a motion on Tuesday supporting an education program teaching safe sex, contraceptives, and consent.

Board Trustee Marilyn Bergstra’s motion, which was defeated 4-3, comes at a time when Alberta politics is fraught with conflict between Catholic and other Christian schools on one side and the socialist New Democratic Party provincial government on the other. The NDP supports the LGBT agenda and has embarked on rewriting the curriculum, including its sex-education component.

Bergstra’s opponents on the board insisted everything she wanted was already in the Catholic curriculum, but within a Catholic moral context stressing the proper place of sexuality in marriage.

Bergstra, an MA student in public health, claims her personal research shows that an approach focusing on abstinence from sex until marriage is not effective.

“This isn’t about promoting promiscuity,” she is quoted by Global News as saying. “I would hope our students, when armed with the facts, could make the best decision for themselves, but we have to be realistic.”

“I could find no peer-reviewed data to suggest that the message of abstinence-only works,” she added. In fact, the data would suggest the opposite.”

Bergstra’s motion called on the government to focus that component on reducing sexually transmitted disease infections and pregnancy prevention.

“I want the conversation to be, ‘Yes, kids are at risk. Yes, there is an outbreak of of infectious disease in this city,” said Bergstra. “How do we promote the emotional health tied to sex. How do we provide the physical health related to sex? How do we ensure kids are ready?”

Bergstra’s views on abstinence represent the view of the public health establishment, Valerie Huber of the Ascend organization told LifeSiteNews.

“She is wrong on so many levels,” Huber said.

Huber said Ascend did not use the expression “abstinence-only” for what it advocates but terms it “Sexual Risk Avoidance Education.” SRA Ed informs students about contraceptives but does not explain how to use them so as not to encourage early sexual activity. SRA does explain the emotional and physical health cost of early engagement in sexual activity.

Apart from the risk of STI and pregnancy, according to Ascend literature, these include “less academic achievement (not necessarily linked to pregnancy); decreased general physical and psychological health, including depression; more involvement in other risk behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and drugs; more likely to participate in anti-social behavior or delinquent behavior; less financial net worth and more likely to live in poverty.”

Huber denies Bergstra’s claim that there is no evidence that SRA works.

“There are currently 25 peer-reviewed studies showing that students in SRA classes are more likely to delay sexual initiation, and, if sexually active, more likely to discontinue or decrease sexual activity and no less likely to use a condom,” Huber explained.

Huber adds that 70 percent of teens abstain from sex now and the proportion has grown 28 percent in the past 20 years. She said a conventional sex-ed program based on harm reduction and aimed at explaining how to have sex safely could encourage more sexual activity and therefore more risk. Huber cited a recent survey by Barna indicating 40 percent of students felt pressured by sex education to engage in sex.

Huber said the public health establishment had abandoned its own model regarding sex. With smoking, in contrast, the public health goal is to persuade those who do not smoke never to start and those who do smoke to stop. But with sex education, said Huber, the message for those teenagers who don’t engage in sex is “We know you are going to do, so here’s how to do it safely.” And for those who are already having sex, “Don’t stop, just do it right. Here’s how.”

In contrast, argues Huber, the way to bring about the least amount of teenage sex is to promote abstinence as the objective.

Edward Green, the former director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard University, reported in his book on worldwide AIDS prevention, Broken Promises, that the public health establishment is committed to a technological response to STDs. His reveals how the establishment did its best to suppress news of Uganda’s success in the 1990s reversing AIDS infection growth with an approach based on abstinence, delaying sexual activity until marriage, and fidelity within it.

But the efforts of developed countries and NGOs to fight AIDS with condoms have failed, said Green. When Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by declaring that condoms would not reduce Africa’s AIDS epidemic, Green provided an aftershock by endorsing the Pope’s comments.

However, Green attests in his book to the difficulty in getting academic journals to publish research that contradicts the prevailing belief that only harm reduction can work.

“Medical journals in general and AIDS journals in particular have made it an unwritten policy not to publish evidence that challenges the harm-reduction thinking of the established industry,” he said.

Reached this week, Green told LifeSiteNews,” First of all, there’s a great deal of bias in the scientific community against publishing any evidence showing the efficacy of abstinence or fidelity education programs.

“Secondly, where we see clear evidence of abstinence contributing to low and declining national HIV prevalence rates is when we see and measure delay in the age of sexual debut.

“Thirdly, the important behavior change that has the most impact in AIDS prevention is monogamy or fidelity, not abstinence.”

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