AP Misrepresents Public Attitude on School Distribution of Birth Control Pill

In the context of a national debate about Portland, Maine distributing birth control pills to middle school students without informing parents, a Nov. 1 AP article, “Poll: Most OK birth control for schools,” implies that the majority of the public support the Portland policy. 

Is this a sign that the public is elevating the sexual revolution above parental rights?     

Not necessarily.  A first glance at the headline could lead to heart failure in any self-respecting culture warrior, but buried within the article are the contrary facts. 

The article acknowledges in its fourth paragraph that most people who support schools giving out birth control still “prefer” parental consent, but doesn't reveal the actual figures until the tenth paragraph.

Of the 67 percent who favor this misguided policy, only 30 percent favor giving birth control to students without parental permission.  Thirty-seven percent support the policy but only if the students have parental permission.  Looking at it this way, less than a third of the public actually agree that the Portland, Maine school board should allow a middle school health center to provide birth control pills to its students without informing parents. 

Thirty percent is a far cry from the “most” stated in the headline. 

Also, the poll results indicate that the public overwhelmingly opposes providing the pill to middle school students.  According to the article, “only a third chose age 15 or younger” as the age at which people should be allowed to obtain birth control. 

Because the students at the middle school sparking this debate in Maine fall between the ages of 11 and 15, it could be surmised that 67 percent of people do not agree with Portland's policy.  But reporting the story that way would contradict the liberal notion that birth control is the best way to reduce the number of teenaged pregnancies. 

Citing figures from the Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood) that teen pregnancy rates have declined to 75 per 1,000, from 119 per thousand in 1990, the article implies that the reduction results from the increased availability of birth control.  However, Life Site News reported in May 2007 that the reduction is linked to abstinence education programs, not necessarily better access to birth control. 

AP's spin on its own poll results amounts to yet another media attack on abstinence education.  In CMI's latest Eye on Culture, Senior Writer Kristen Fyfe details the assault the media have launched against the very idea of abstinence. 

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center