The religious right has a heavy-hand in conservative politics, particularly in an election year. Christian presidential candidates like Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) all tout their Christian credentials and signed the pro-life pledges to court the evangelical vote. But there is one traditional position that even young Christians are abandoning: the purity pledge. According to a recent study, 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults have had sex, only 8 percent less than the general unmarried adult population:
One of the biggest surprises was a December 2009 study, conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which included information on sexual activity.
While the study’s primary report did not explore religion, some additional analysis focusing on sexual activity and religious identification yielded this result: 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex – slightly less than 88 percent of unmarried adults, according to the teen pregnancy prevention organization.
This surprisingly high percentage should land a blow to the political canon of the religious right-wing. As chief proponents of abstinence-only education, religious right-wing organizations insist that delaying sex until marriage “is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and out-of-wedlock pregnancy.” Health experts, however, note that evidence suggests such programs “are even harmful and have negative consequences by not providing adequate information for those teens who do become sexually active.” Studies have not found that abstinence-only programs cut pregnancy rates, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or even the age when sexual activity begins.
Without proper sexual education, sexually active young adults are more likely to have unintended pregnancies or contract STDs. Family planning health centers like Planned Parenthood, however, are dedicated to addressing these needs. Indeed, Planned Parenthood’s chief services are sexually transmitted diseases testing and treatment as well as contraception. These services help Planned Parenthood prevent “more than 620,000 unintended pregnancies each year.”
Because unintended pregnancies are the primary reason women seek abortions and at least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, the religious right might appreciate the important role such centers play helping preventing the chief evil of abortion. Instead, right-wing Christian organizations are dedicated to defunding and demolishing places like Planned Parenthood.
The policies that the religious right and its Republican champions often tout may play well at the pulpit. But, as more and more Christians abandon long-held stances on sexual intercourse, these policies will be an increasingly outdated and even dangerous position for the faithful.