Sexual left isn't against abstinence only—it's against abstinence at all

Driving to work this morning, Weblog was listening to the CBS radio news roundup. It's not available online, but the very brief story touched on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's speech at the International AIDS Conference this week. CBS's two- or three-sentence summary was that Museveni supported abstinence in combating the disease, but that such a policy is widely opposed.

The story seemed grossly underreported and misleading—far more so than even most 10-second news blurbs on the top-of-the-hour roundups. Surely AIDS activists don't oppose the "A" in Uganda's famous and successful ABC policy: Abstinence, Being faithful, and Condoms.

And surely the activists could not have been too angered by Museveni's comments at the conference. "The principle of condoms is not the ultimate solution," he said. "In some cultures sexual intercourse is so elaborate that condoms are a hindrance. … Let the condom be used by people who cannot abstain, cannot be faithful, or are estranged."

Actually, as it turns out, many activists do oppose the ABC approach. Associated Press reporter Vijay Joshi noted that the ABC proponents are outnumbered at the conference. Instead, what the conference is pushing is CNN: Condoms, Needles, Negotiating Skills.

"An abstinence-until-marriage program is not only irresponsible, it's really inhumane," said U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Ca.).

Radical? Yep. But even more telling is a debate on Friday at the South Dakota State Library board meeting. Gov. Mike Rounds urged the board to drop a Planned Parenthood link on the library system's website for teens, citing concerns from Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Carlson.

"I trust that you will agree that the information found on these links are not only objectionable, but in many instances false," Carlson had written to the governor. "Undeniably, it is sending a harmful message to our valued youth. I find it extremely troubling that the State of South Dakota would encourage our young women and men to turn to Planned Parenthood for any guidance, whether it be sex education or the intrinsic evil of abortion."

Rounds agreed, saying he didn't think the link was appropriate. "I'm not sure the state should be in the business of promoting a particular cause," he said. "A clear pro-choice message comes through strongly."

Kate Looby, director for the South Dakota Planned Parenthood, said that if their link should go, so should a link to Christianity Today sister publication Campus Life, which urges teens to abstain from sex.

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So, amazingly, the board voted on whether to remove links to both Planned Parenthood and Campus Life. Got it? The idea is this: If you can't tell kids to have sex, then you can't tell them not to have sex. Fortunately, the vote to ban Campus Life failed (it needed a majority, and instead the board split, 3-3). The board will remove the Planned Parenthood link for two months while reviewing the matter.

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
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Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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