Planned Parenthood and the Pathetically Low Bar of “Safer Sex”

Earlier this week Planned Parenthood posted a question on Twitter:

Curious to see how the nation’s largest abortion chain answered this question, I clicked on the link, which opened an article on Planned Parenthood’s Tumblr.

Here’s an excerpt:

Even if we could say you have an X% of getting Y infection if you do Z sex act, there’s no way to know which side of the statistic you’ll fall on. You could do something really risky and luck out and dodge the STD bullet. Or you could be suuuuuper careful and still end up with an infection. But that DOESN’T mean that it’s not worth trying to avoid STDs. Even though having safer sex can’t totally eliminate the risk of STDs, it really lowers your chances.

Then they follow up with this:

I’ma use driving as a metaphor here. Every time you drive, there’s a risk you might have an accident. And every time you have sex, there’s a risk you could get an STD. The only way to be 100% sure you won’t get in a car accident is to never get in a car. And the only way to be 100% sure you won’t get an STD is to never have sexual contact with another person.

This last sentence allows Planned Parenthood to pay lip service to the message of abstinence.  But they go on:

Having safer sex is kind of like using seatbelts: it’s one of the best ways to avoid serious injuries if you do have an accident, but there are no guarantees. Even though people wearing seatbelts sometimes get hurt, it’s still a good idea to use them because they lower your chances of getting seriously injured and keep people safer overall. Same with condoms and dental dams: they can’t prevent every single infection, but they’re still one of the best ways to avoid STDs if you do have sex.

That doesn’t exactly sound like a ringing endorsement, does it?  Reading between the lines, it almost sounds as if Planned Parenthood is saying that relying on condoms to prevent STDs is a bit like roulette:  If you use “protection,” you might not get an STD, but then again, you might. (And, what’s more, the picture accompanying the article shows a pair of dice surrounded by some condoms!)

In this vein, the nation’s largest abortion chain is accurately conveying what the CDC has to say about condoms:

Epidemiologic studies that compare rates of HIV infection between condom users and nonusers who have HIV-infected sex partners demonstrate that consistent condom use is highly effective in preventing transmission of HIV. Similarly, epidemiologic studies have shown that condom use reduces the risk of many other STDs. However, the exact magnitude of protection has been difficult to quantify because of numerous methodological challenges inherent in studying private behaviors that cannot be directly observed or measured. [emphasis added]

Read that last sentence again.  Instead, the CDC should have simply said: Yeah, um, we don’t really know how effective condoms are at preventing most STDs. 

Even as the message of “safe(r) sex” has been parroted incessantly for decades, the number of new STD cases in the U.S. is at a record high.  Faced with this knowledge, the logical thing to do is take a step back and ask if maybe, just maybe, the “safe(r) sex” messaging thing has been a miserable failure.  But Planned Parenthood — and the CDC, and, well, a whole lot of others — won’t go there.

“Safe sex is the best sex!”

I’m reminded of an incident a few years back when some members of the Illinois Choice Action Team counter-protested one of our events by handing out free condoms accompanied by the sales pitch, “Safe sex is the best sex!”

My co-worker, Pro-Life Action League executive director Eric Scheidler, made the observation: “They’re actually right,” he said. “Except they don’t know what safe sex really is.”

Safe sex — really, truly safe sex — is sharing your body with your spouse when and only when you’re open to life. This mutual self-giving of husband and wife is nothing less than a physical renewal of a couple’s wedding vows to love each other freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully.

Understood this way, sex speaks a language of permanent, committed love, and makes absolutely no sense outside of marriage. Think about it: How can two people renew their wedding vows to each other if they haven’t ever made wedding vows to each other in the first place?

The answer, of course, is: They can’t.

The truly “safe” and responsible thing to do is to recognize that there is an inseparable link between life, love, procreation, and children. Oh, sure, we can say they have nothing to do with each other, and even live our lives as if they don’t, but we do so at our own peril. (Remember: Nature bats last.)

Contrast this with what in common parlance is referred to as “safe(r) sex” and behold the chasm-like difference. As the idea is commonly understood, as long as you’re using condoms (with or without another form of birth control) to prevent STDs and unplanned pregnancy, you are supposedly practicing “safe(r) sex.”

The Pathetically Low Bar of “Safe(r) Sex”

Imagine someone saying, “Food that doesn’t taste like garbage is the best food!”

Saying, “Safe sex is the best sex!” is just as ridiculous.  It’s also pathetic in the truest sense of the word.

No one finishes a delicious meal and exclaims, “Wow!  That did not taste like garbage!”

It goes without saying that the “best” types of food don’t taste like, you know, garbage.  But noting this fact isn’t exactly a strong testament to their quality.

With this in mind, let’s revisit this advice given by Planned Parenthood:

The only way to be 100% sure you won’t get an STD is to never have sexual contact with another person.

The implication here is that everyone — literally everyone — who has sex is at risk of getting an STD.  But that’s absurd.

When a man and woman who are both STD-free get married and remain faithful to each other, they can indeed be 100% sure they won’t get an STD.  They’re not even thinking about being “safe” because they don’t have to.  For obvious reasons, they’re so far beyond the point of being concerned about getting an STD that it’s not even on their radar screen.

These couples aren’t content to settle for what is commonly known as “safe(r) sex.”  They understand that the real thing is so much more, and they’ll accept nothing less.

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