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Important New Research
The Journal of Health Economics, a highly respected, peer-reviewed journal, has published some important new research into the effect of providing family planning to teenagers as a method of reducing underage conceptions. The author, Dr David Paton of Nottingham University, hypothesised that attendance of teenagers at family planning clinics might not reduce underage conceptions, and might even increase them. To test his hypothesis, Dr Paton used detailed data on clinic attendance, conceptions and abortion rates for teenagers. He made special use of the data surrounding 1985, the year when Mrs Victoria Gillick had obtained a high court ruling restricting the access of underage girls to contraceptive provision. His conclusions are that:
'. . . improving access to family planning can have an ambiguous impact on underage conception and abortion rates. On the one hand, teenagers who will engage in sexual activity in any case face a reduced risk of pregnancy. On the other hand, family planning raises the likelihood of engaging in sexual activity in the first place . . . Using a range of specifications, I find no evidence that greater access to family planning has reduced underage conceptions or abortions. Indeed, there is some evidence that greater access is associated with an increase in underage conceptions in our sample. The observed non-negative impact of family planning on conception rates is consistent with the predictions of the rational choice model that increased availability of family planning will have a positive impact on rates of underage sexual activity.'
This important research calls into question the long-standing official view that the problem of teenage pregnancy can be solved by making contraception more easily available to young teens, without their parents' knowledge or consent. Indeed, the present government's much publicised Teenage Pregnancy Strategy hinges on this assumption. That is why it is destined to fail in its stated objective of reducing under-18 conceptions by 50% by 2010.
Paton, D., 'The economics of family planning and underage conceptions', Journal of Health Economics 21 (2002) 207-225. See also 'Why the government's teenage pregnancy strategy is destined to fail', a report from Family Education Trust available on the website.
Taking a Firm Line on Abstinence
Although the government is supposedly committed to reducing teenage pregnancy, there is no room in official policy for abstinence education. In spite of its impressive track record in the USA, it plays no part in the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy. Mrs Sue Relf of Eastbourne found she had incurred the disapproval of the local PSHE adviser when she arranged for the Challenge Team, a Canadian young people's theatre company, to give a series of performances in local secondary schools with the message that 'chastity is a positive, realistic and healthy lifestyle'. Mrs Relf was asked to attend a meeting with the PSHE team, at which she was supported by Arthur Cornell, Chairman of Family Education Trust and a recently retired head teacher of a local school, to listen to criticisms of the Challenge Team's performance. As a result, she resigned from Eastbourne's Sexual Health Forum, as she intends to organise further performances this autumn. East Sussex's PSHE adviser has written to local schools discouraging such performances. This was reported by Philip Johnston in the Daily Telegraph, and a leader in the paper the next day (5 April 2002) argued cogently that:
'. . . many of the same people who say that teaching sexual abstinence does not work are firm believers in teaching children to abstain from smoking, drinking and drug-taking. If it is thought to have a chance in these cases, then why not give it a try in sex education? . . . It is at least possible that sex education, as now taught in schools in East Sussex and elsewhere, actively encourages children to experiment with sex.'
Mrs Relf will be reporting on her experiences to the Annual General Meeting.
Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st Century - Preference Theory
Policies for women should be based on women's preferences, not on misleading 'snapshots' from labour-force statistics. So argues Dr Hakim in this detailed analysis of the choices women make - about careers, marriage and motherhood. Dr Hakim is Senior Research Fellow in Sociology at the London School of Economics, and has previously challenged widespread assumptions about the desire of women to emulate men in their working lives.
Social and economic changes over the last thirty years have created new opportunities for women - but far from making them alike, the result is that their preferences have diverged. Dr Hakim's research shows that women tend to fall into three categories:
Too often policies for mothers are based on the work-centred 20%, who conform to feminist expectations. But this ignores the needs of the home-centred 20% - and often the adaptive 60% too, because many of them would prefer to work shorter hours or take less responsibility in order to give priority to the needs of their children.
The importance of 'preference theory' is that its use would enable policies to be based on women's preferences rather than superficial assumptions drawn from job figures. For example, funds are currently poured into daycare because many mothers work. This sidesteps the question of whether women would rather have the money to be at home, or to work shorter hours if they could afford to do so.
Dr Hakim considers a huge range of statistics, British, European and American, in her examination not only of women and work but also marriage choices and the impact of higher education. She finds that however high their qualifications, women still have a tendency to choose husbands who are more qualified/higher earning than themselves, thereby making it more likely that as wives and mothers they may be able to opt for reduced career responsibilities.
A substantial section is devoted to the policy implications of Dr Hakim's findings and detailed, and very useful, international comparisons are provided. These show, for example, how European countries which favour income-splitting provide a more balanced choice for women and families.
Whilst it is an academic work, this book is also a good read - a fascinating insight into the lives of women today which goes below the surface clichés, and which is logically and clearly presented.
Family Decline and the Consequences for Society
It would be difficult to find a more succinct and beautifully presented account of the current plight of the family than Jill Kirby's pamphlet for the Centre for Policy Studies. Mrs Kirby is a lawyer by training, and this shows in the clear and concise way in which she takes us through the statistics and the consequences of family breakdown. Because the volume of research on this issue - all of it supporting the view that family breakdown has serious negative consequences - is now so vast, it can be difficult for the lay reader to keep up with it. Mrs Kirby, who was for several years the chair of Full-Time Mothers, takes the reader through all the important points with the aid of simple graphs and tables. She explains the link with public policy, and ends with some suggestions as to what can be done. Highly recommended.
Children as Trophies: Examining the Evidence on Same-Sex Parenting
One might think that this book is concerned with a non-problem. Only a tiny percentage of the population is homosexual - one per cent according to official government figures - and, of these people, only a tiny proportion want to adopt children. However, as Patricia Morgan shows in this important and well-written book, there is a full agenda of 'homosexual rights' and this one is the next on the list. Homosexual 'consent' at the age of 16 has been achieved; homosexuality in the armed forces has been achieved; employment privileges for homosexuals have been achieved; and so on. The targets now are adoption and homosexual 'marriage'. The general aim is to attempt to show that homosexuality is 'normal' and those opposed to the spread of its 'rights' are 'homophobic'.
Patricia Morgan states quite firmly that in adoption the good of the child must come first, not any whim of the adults who wish to have a child, least of all those fighting a political agenda. She has examined all the evidence and can argue convincingly. For instance, it is frequently quoted that '[N]ot a single study has found children of gay or lesbian parents to be disadvantaged in any important way relative to children of heterosexual parents…' Patricia Morgan is able to state: 'these claims cannot be substantiated'.
Morgan puts the argument into an overall framework of bringing up children and shows that 'recent estimates strongly indicate that the numbers of children with psychosocial disorders has grown over the same time as families have increasingly fractured and fragmented'. As she rightly says, 'children who become available for adoption are among the most vulnerable of children, often having endured all manner of deprivation, disruptions and disturbances, and often with poor environmental and/or genetic legacies'. The book several times quotes the encouraging words of the then Home Secretary Jack Straw who, on the Today programme on 4 November 1998, stated: 'Children, in my judgement, and I think it's the judgement of almost everyone including single parents, are best brought up where you have two natural parents in a stable relationship. There's no question about that. What we know from the evidence is that, generally speaking, that stability is more likely to occur where the parents are married than where they are not'.
All those who care for the family should obtain and study this book.
HIV and Aids in Schools:
The Political Economy of Pressure Groups and Miseducation
It is a paradox that the onset of Aids, which one might have expected to have brought about a rethink about the permissive society and its consequences (the Princess Royal's description of it as 'An own goal' by humankind is so wise) has produced the opposite. In British schools, the Aids problem was used to bring into schools, even church schools, sex education that had previously been resisted. The line was not, as might have been expected, that unnatural and unhygienic sexual practices bring about disease and should be resisted, but just the opposite: that anybody can catch Aids and that the answer is as much sex as you can manage provided that you use a condom.
This book examines the materials being used by schools in HIV/Aids teaching and how teachers are approaching the subject. The authors conclude that, because of material provided by pressure groups, teachers are exaggerating the Aids problem and failing to stress the extent to which the risk of infection depends on behaviour. The authors also consider the extent of the Aids problem in Africa pointing out anomalies in the data which lead to doubts about the conventional wisdom. The authors' conclusion about Britain is that HIV/Aids teaching should no longer be compulsory. Either the law should be repealed or schools should simply drop the subject.
The book reveals solid facts about Aids that the vested interest groups would like to keep secret. In 2000, the last year for which we have figures, 263 people died from Aids-defining illness in the UK. In that year, about 300,000 people died from cancer and heart disease and yet it is not compulsory for schools to teach about these illnesses. More than twice as many people died from falling down the stairs at home than from Aids. Falling down the stairs is not taught in schools, nor do fashionable media personalities and church figures take part in raising money for falling-down-the-stairs charities.
This book would be especially useful for teachers and governors of schools who could usefully acquire several copies for discussion. It clearly lays down the current legal position. For example, it is often glibly implied that all primary schools must have sex education lessons by law. Not so, says this book and gives the clear legal reference - Education (No.2) Act 1986, S18 - where it is stated that governing bodies of maintained primary schools are bound to decide only whether sex and relationships education should be included in their school's curriculum. It is perfectly legal to decide to have no lessons at all.
I urge you to read HIV and Aids in schools and to circulate it widely.
Prophets & Priests: The Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement
This is a well-written and informative book about the birth control movement and its sordid history. In particular, it shows how the movement is a chameleon, always changing its approach to try to fit public opinion but always opposed to family life, and, indeed, all life. We read of the whole crew, such as Marie Stopes, whose life and ideas are exposed. The inconsistencies and hypocrisies are revealed. We see this today, when the pro-abortion campaigners shout in the West about a woman's right to choose but give massive support to China's policy of compulsory abortion. No right to choose there.
This is the sort of book that could be ordered very usefully from your public library. The library is unlikely to buy it in the normal course of things and, once it is on the shelf, it is available for all to read. Despite all the horror revealed, this is an optimistic book since it shows the triumph of the desire for the human race to reproduce itself and to enjoy family life.
News in Brief
Annual General Meeting
This year's Annual General Meeting and conference will take place at the RAF Club, 128 Piccadilly, on Saturday 15 June.
During the morning we will conduct the business of the society and hear reports from those who have been active in their local communities. Many of those who attended last year's meeting commented on the inspirational nature of these contributions, so it is worth making the effort to arrive before lunchtime to hear them!
Our speakers in the afternoon conference session will be Dr Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics, whose fascinating book on women's lifestyle choices is reviewed in this bulletin, and Dr Joost Van Loon of Nottingham Trent University, who will speak on his ground-breaking research, commissioned by the Family Education Trust, into teenage pregnancy and sex education in the Netherlands.
And Finally . . .
'If civilisation has got the better of barbarism when barbarism had the world to itself, it is too much to profess to be afraid lest barbarism, after having been fairly got under, should revive and conquer civilisation. A civilisation that can thus succumb to its vanquished enemy must first have become so degenerate that neither its appointed priests and teachers, nor anybody else, has the capacity, or will take the trouble, to stand up for it. If this be so, the sooner such a civilisation receives notice to quit, the better. It can only go on from bad to worse until destroyed and regenerated (like the Western Empire) by energetic barbarians.'
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859