Abstinence-only speaker stirs controversy
By Katherine Calos
Published: November 18, 2009
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nowBuzz up!Dr. Wendy S. Klein was concerned about Pam Stenzel long before the abstinence-only speaker created a controversy yesterday at Douglas Freeman High School.
Klein’s son, while a senior at Mills Godwin High School, came home upset after hearing Stenzel give a talk there three years ago.
“He was very distressed, because he knows better,” Klein said. “He said she tried to scare everybody not to use birth-control pills.”
Klein is an expert in women’s health. She’s co-founder of the Institute for Women’s Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, deputy editor of the Journal of Women’s Health and associate professor emeritus of internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology at the VCU School of Medicine
“There is nothing wrong with promoting abstinence,” Klein said. “Stenzel uses a lot of scare tactics that are not accurate. It’s not OK to do that.”
Stenzel’s Web site lists her fee range as $3,500 to $5,000, but her appearance at Freeman was without charge, according to Mychael Dickerson, a spokesman for the Henrico County school system, which includes Freeman and Godwin.
Admission to the Freeman program was restricted to students.
Afterward, junior Connor Hill said the topic was good but the presentation was one-sided.
“She was very biased in her attempt to inform us,” he wrote in a post online. “She pretty much bashed any students in the school who have had sex at this point and told them that they will never be able to live it down.”
Two parents who watched from a foyer had opposite reactions to what they heard.
Nancy Godfrey, the mother of a Freeman junior, said she thought the presentation was excellent. “I couldn’t care less if the numbers aren’t exactly right,” she said. “If there’s any chance at all [of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease], they need to understand that it’s there.”
Some students gave the speaker a standing ovation, Godfrey said.
Kathleen Burden, the mother of a freshman and senior at the school, took issue with the “shame aspect” of Stenzel’s remarks and such statements as “condoms are not safe” and “condoms do not provide any protection against [human papilloma virus].”
Klein countered the HPV statement with a 2006 report published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study said women who reported 100 percent condom use had a third as much risk of getting infected as those who didn’t.
“To say in the same broad stroke of the brush that condoms are not safe” also raised concerns. “If teens are going to have sex, you want them to use condoms,” Klein said.
“Of course I don’t want teens to have sex. Of course I don’t want them to get pregnant,” she said. “But, you have to be careful about scaring them away from birth control.”
Contact Katherine Calos at (804) 649-6433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.