Dispatches From CPD 2012: Can I Get an Evidence-Base in Here?!


Dave is a volunteer youth delegate to the Commission on Population and Development, working with the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

To see all our coverage of the 2012 Commission on Population and Development, click here.

The discussions at the United Nations 45th Commission on Population and Development are still in full swing as we all work tirelessly (or more accurately, with increasing fatigue) towards an outcome document that ensures service provision that meets the global Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) needs of young people.

Having already discussed the different processes that underpin this meeting and some of what the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is focusing on during its time here, I thought that I’d spend a little bit of time talking about those who disagree with our viewpoints, more affectionately known to us as the ‘opposition.’

The opposition is a strange creature: groomed from a young age, often by the architects of their poisonous messages which are rooted in moralistic, religious ideologies. They claim to be advocates for young people’s rights; they believe that by perpetuating social norms and demonising deviants, or sexual anarchists as they term them, they can ensure the innocence of society.

As a final year medical student I’m a big fan of evidence-based medicine. We are always taught how to critically appraise clinical science and ensure that well-conducted studies are also analysed as a larger data set to come to robust conclusions about the effectiveness of interventions.

A number of claims have been made during this week, and these are the arguments that the claims of the opposition are underpinned by. Some of these are listed below and you can find links to the robust counter-arguments to these if you click on each statement:

Contraception causes abortion

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) results in losing their virginity at an earlier age

Abortion causes depression, or post-abortion traumatic stress

Access to safe abortion does not improve maternal health outcomes

Homosexuals can be converted to ex-gays with intensive therapy

What these arguments lack is one or a combination of the following: an evidence-base, a rational argument, an understanding of biomedical theories including pathology and pharmacology, an appreciation of normal emotional reactions and the social determinants of the individual identity, among others.

As I continue to learn more and more about evidenced-based science, I know that it is most definitely a complex speciality and I am conscious that I have a great deal more to learn. I also appreciate that not everyone has taken classes in medical statistics or critical appraisal and therefore poorly conducted studies can appear to be legitimate when presented to lay persons. This is one of the tactics of the opposition to our pro-SRHR agenda. Thankfully, as a representative of an organisation that has compiled thorough fact sheets which comprehensively analyse the data pertinent to these issues, I believe that the scientific facts will emerge and demonstrate how safe and effective interventions in sexual and reproductive health really are.

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