A pro-family organization in Hamilton is taking at least part of the credit for a significant drop in teen pregnancies in that city during the latest years for which statistics are available.
The pregnancy rate for girls in Hamilton aged 15-19 dropped from either 51.3 or 49.6 per thousand in 1997 (depending on the source of the statistics) to 39.8 per thousand in 1999 – which translates into about 190 fewer actual pregnancies. The numbers coincide with the efforts of the Hamilton-Wentworth Family Action Council, which is concerned with mobilizing concerned citizens on social issues, to reduce funding to, and hours of service by, Planned Parenthood and public sexual health clinics.
“We started letting people know who Planned Parenthood and public health really were in 1996 and 1997,” said Jim Enos, vice-president of the HWFAC. “There was then a decline in attendance at these clinics by 60 per cent. Kids weren’t coming to the clinics and the pregnancy rates went down. That’s what really matters. The less kids see of public health, the better they do. I don’t see how anyone can shoot a hole in that argument.”
Nonetheless, the City of Hamilton’s public health department claims that “a more comprehensive education program in school, more clinics available for sexual health services and the creation of the Sexual Health Network” were the primary causes of the decline.
Nonsense, replied Enos. “Public health’s claims are totally invalid. The more comprehensive (sex education) program was first introduced as a pilot project in (Hamilton) public schools in January 2000. How, then, could it have affected the 1998 and 1999 pregnancy rates?”
Back in 1996, the HWFAC intervened to express its concerns to city councillors about the sexual health approaches of Planned Parenthood and the public health department. “We went into the clinics, pulling materials off the shelves and bringing them to the councillors,” said Enos. “Vulgar posters were on the walls. Pro-gay posters were taken off.”
One brochure was found that included “12 filthy sayings” on condom usage, he added.
Between 1997 and 1999, significant drops occurred in funding, operating hours and attendance for the Planned Parenthood and public sexual health clinics.
“The way the clinics functioned changed,” said Enos. “There was a more balanced approach – abstinence brochures became available and there were color posters of pretty girls who said they chose abstinence, rather than small, black-and-white things shoved into a drawer somewhere. Thankfully, the culture is changing, albeit too slowly, due to some wise city councillors and school officials who, since 1997, have worked diligently to support initiatives that address the true sources of adolescent pregnancies.”
The advent of the Sexual Health Network, which has some pro-family members, has also been a positive development, resulting in initiatives such as the recent “Worth the Wait” media campaign, which seeks to provide moral and cultural support to those young people choosing abstinence.
Enos said it will be more difficult to collate data for years after 1999, because the province has deemed any information connected with the abortion issue to be sensitive in nature. Consequently, it is reticent to release it, which makes Enos’s job that much harder. However, he is pursuing an access to information request to obtain the necessary data. “It’s really an attempt at a cover-up,” he charged.
Enos plans to take what data he has collected so far and bring it back to city council, where he will drive home the point that an abstinence-based sexual health approach works. “I want to apply for speaker’s status (before city council) in January, after the (municipal) election,” he said. “I’m going to pull out some claims by Planned Parenthood, in which they said (teen) pregnancy rates would skyrocket if they lost their funding.”
He will also be asking that funding levels for Hamilton’s public sexual health clinics be reduced to the provincially mandated 16-hour-a-week minimum “until these clinics can do something positive.” The city is currently providing about 42 hours per week.
Enos said he never goes before city officials expecting to win everything he asks for, “but we pick up a little more every time.”
And if, as expected, the public health department will claim lower pregnancy rates in Hamilton are because teens “have finally gotten the message” about safe or safer sex, Enos says his response will be: “If they’ve gotten the message, then we’ll shut you down. We don’t need you anymore.”