November 12, 2005

FDA considers new labels for condoms

Posted in Sex at 9:18 pm by mj

The FDA is considering new condom labels warning that condoms reduce, but do not eliminate, the risk of pregnancy or transmission of HIV.

Sounds like a straight-forward statement of the facts, right? If you’ve been paying attention, you already knew that.

Conservative groups are supporting this measure, because they think it will increase the number of unmarried couples abstaining from sex. Um, no, not gonna happen. The decision to have sex is not a logical decision. That decision has far more to do with hormones, emotions and social conformity than it does with rational risk assessment. Fact of life. And if the reason somebody is avoiding sex is out of fear of disease, they probably have more severe problems, and are not any more emotionally or logically well-adjusted as anybody else. (One who is well-adjusted, and does make it a logical decision, is not going to be swayed by being berated, anyway.)

But here’s the thing. Planned Parenthood is opposing the warning label because, so their argument goes, it will cause maladjusted teens to abandon condom use altogether. According to Planned Parenthood, unmarried couples having promiscuous sex already have an aversion to, and doubts about, using condoms. So telling them that condoms really aren’t 100% safe and effective will make at least some of them conclude that they’re not worth the trouble.

My guess is Planned Parenthood is opposing the label simply on account that Conservative groups support it. It can best be understood, then, as a political tactic, not a health tactic, simply so they’re not seen as agreeing with Conservatives, whether they expect the FDA to drop their recommendation or not.

Because, if not, what they’re really saying can be stated thusly: “More information leads to worse decision making. So keep people ignorant and lie to them if you have to.”

Hmm. That sounds suspiciously like some of the arguments made by abstinence-only advocates.

I’m sure there’s an economist somewhere who can lay out a great argument on how perfect knowledge can lead to degredation of everybody’s economic well-being. And we’re all aware of how impending disasters might be kept secret for a time until preparations are made so as to not cause panic and more damage. And, hey, if we accept that having sex is not a logical decision, then maybe we don’t want to combat public health issues with facts and figures and rational arguments. But it just seems so absurd to me.


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