In the 1980s, we were introduced to the phrase “safe sex.” The phrase was later amended to “safer sex” since no condom is 100 per cent effective. While the phrase changed, the message to children did not: “Engage in sexual relations if you feel you are ready. And if you feel you are ready, be responsible and use protection – rely on condoms.”

With the rampant increase in unplanned pregnancies and the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, is it not wise to just accept the premise that teenagers are going to have sex regardless of what adults say? “After all, times have changed,” it is argued. With the incidents of sexual content on television and film increasing every year, it only makes sense to teach our children to protect themselves.

Not surprisingly, many parents agree on this point. “I would prefer that my children pick up a condom at their school than face a pregnancy or STD,” they reason.

Condom worship

Condoms have been the staple of the “prevent sexually transmitted diseases” mentality for many years. There is no question that they have a relatively good success rate (compared to, say, the Iraqi military), but with sexually transmitted diseases on the rise, should we rely on this man-made device to protect our children? Aren’t condoms better than using nothing at all?

With lives being destroyed everyday, it is time to take another look at what has become virtual condom worship since the onset of the AIDS epidemic.

As Planned Parenthood itself admits, contraceptive failure rates come in two categories: “lowest expected” and “typical.” A “lowest expected” failure rate applies to those “whose use is consistent and always correct.” A “typical” failure rate (also known as a “user” failure rate), applies to “those whose use is not consistent or always correct.”

Since there are no perfect people, everyone falls under the “typical” failure rate category. Only laboratory test equipment can provide statistics for “lowest expected” failure rates.

It is conceded that risk of pregnancy and infection is reduced, not eliminated. Of course, this applies to vaginal intercourse only. Any other kind of sexual activity “can increase the potential of damage to the condom.” Since the spread of HIV occurs most easily through anal
intercourse, the risk is far greater. What’s more, Planned Parenthood admits that herpes and human papilloma virus (HPV) may shed past the area covered by a condom.

Risks remain

In a letter to the Washington Post, C. Michael Roland, editor of Rubber Chemistry and Technology and head of the Polymer Properties Section at the Naval Research Laboratory, writes that the reliance on condoms to stop the spread of HIV is foolhardy.

“There are facts that suggest that rubber contraceptives are inherently unable to make sex safe. The 12 per cent failure rate of condoms in the prevention of pregnancy alone argues against their use for preventing contraction of a fatal disease.”

With news of condom failure, many family planning advocates call for the use of spermicides in conjunction with condoms. Even here, however, the spermicides must be used according to careful direction, to reduce – not eliminate – the risk of pregnancy or disease.

It is like sending our children to Las Vegas. If we tell them they have an 88 per cent chance of winning, they are all ready to pack their bags. A 12 per cent failure rate is minuscule. If the same child is asked to use a parachute that has a mere 12 per cent failure rate, or ride in an aircraft with the same failure rate, they scoff – and rightly so.

We are talking about risking a life. Suggesting they ride in the aircraft anyway, but offering two parachutes, just does not make things seem much better.

This is a case of adults setting children up for a fall. Many young people will escape the physical consequences of sex outside of marriage, but some will not. We could not teach them about abstinence because they surely would not have listened. So we didn’t even try.

We just kept preaching the same “protect yourself” message as lives crumbled around us. Just another statistic.

We can do better. We must do better. Much better.

(Douglas R. Scott is president of Life Decisions International and author of Bad Choices: A Look Inside Planned Parenthood.)