News the Public Needs to Know

The Washington Post published two articles this week that bolsters the pro-life side of the argument in two areas: abstinence and end-of-life issues.

The first article appeared on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 regarding a recently published study on abstinence-only education programs. Researchers conducted a study between 2001-2004 that had four groups of children involved. Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Post article (click here to read the entire article):

Students were randomly assigned to go through one of the following: an eight-hour curriculum that encouraged them to delay having sex; an eight-hour program focused on teaching safe sex; an eight- or 12-hour program that did both; or an eight-hour program focused on teaching them other ways to be healthy, such as eating well and exercising. The abstinence-only portion involved a series of sessions in which instructors talked to students in small groups about their views about abstinence and their knowledge of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. They also conducted role-playing exercises and brainstorming sessions designed to correct misconceptions about sex and sexually transmitted diseases, encourage abstinence and offer ways to resist pressure to have sex.

Over the next two years, about 33 percent of the students who went through the abstinence program started having sex, compared with about 52 percent who were taught only safe sex. About 42 percent of the students who went through the comprehensive program started having sex, and about 47 percent of those who learned about other ways to be healthy did.

The abstinence program had no negative effects on condom use, which has been a major criticism of the abstinence approach.

The lead researcher made a statement that can be seen as almost reconciliatory towards pro-lifers who have fought for abstinence-only education programs.

“I think we’ve written off abstinence-only education without looking closely at the nature of the evidence,” said John B. Jemmott III, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who led the federally funded study. “Our study shows this could be one approach that could be used.”

The second article was published on Thursday, February 2, 2010. A study was conducted on 54 patients in a “vegetative state” to see if their minds were working or not. The study found that some of the patients could indeed hear, react, and respond to outside stimulation. Here is an excerpt (click here to read the entire article):

One by one, the men and women were placed inside advanced brain scanners as technicians gave them careful instructions: Imagine you are playing tennis. Imagine you are exploring your home, room by room. For most, the scanner showed nothing.

But, shockingly, for one, then another, and another, and yet two more, the scans flashed exactly like any healthy conscious person’s would. These patients, the images clearly indicated, were living silently in their bodies, their minds apparently active. One man could even flawlessly answer detailed yes-or-no questions about his life before his trauma by activating different parts of his brain.

“It was incredible,” said Adrian M. Owen, a neuroscientist at the Medical Research Council who led the groundbreaking research described in a paper published online Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine. “These are patients who are totally unable to perform functions with their bodies — even blink an eye or move an eyebrow — but yet are entirely conscious. It’s quite distressing, really, to realize this.” …

“This should change the way we think about these patients,” said Nicholas D. Schiff, an associate professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. “I think it’s going to have very broad implications.” …

As many as 20,000 Americans are in a vegetative state, meaning they are alive and awake but without any apparent sense of awareness, and 100,000 to 300,000 are in a related condition known as a minimally conscious state, in which they exhibit impaired or intermittent awareness. It is unclear what proportion of these patients would be affected by the study’s findings.

The message of pro-life Americans remains the same: all life is precious and valuable regardless of its state of being. For decades Americans have witnessed our values hijacked by a culture that tells us over and over through the popular media that the value of human life, both born and pre-born, is based on what that life contributes or “brings to the table.” “They” set the measuring stick by which “they” determine that value, and “they” use science to bolster their argument for promoting death as a “kind” and “worthy” alternative to life. What will they say as science refutes one of the very yardsticks they use to determine whether it’s time to pull the plug on someone’s beloved family member? Who do you want advocating for your loved one if they end up in a state where they are calling out for your help and compassion but their voices are locked inside them and you cannot hear their cries?