Oprah and GMA ‘Bristle’ at Bristol’s Pledge of Abstinence

Every week Oprah Winfrey encourages over 44 million Americans to "Live Your Best Life" - the mantra of her billion-dollar brand.

"The key to realizing a dream," Oprah said in the Sept. 2002 issue of her O magazine, "is to focus not on success but significance - and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning."

Maybe Oprah should revisit that statement and add, "Unless we're talking about sexual abstinence. In that case, just throw in the towel."

In a Jan. 22 interview, Oprah criticized Bristol Palin, the teen daughter of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, for recently telling In Touch Weekly that she was pledging abstinence until marriage.

"I kind of bristled," Oprah began, "when I saw this - where you said, ‘I'm not going to have sex until I'm married. I can guarantee it' ... I'm just wondering if that is a realistic goal. I think teaching responsibility, teaching, ya know, a sense of judgment about it, but is that a realistic position?"

Strange that Oprah decided to be "realistic" about saving sex for marriage. Forget about that "focus on not success but significance" hogwash. Forget empowerment and realizing your dream. You're a slave to your hormones, and stating your intention of abstaining from sex is simply "setting yourself up [for failure]."

Bristol, who as a mother at 19 knows a little something about the subject, wasn't swayed.

"I just think it's a goal to have," she replied. "And I think that other young women should have that goal."

That would have been the time for Oprah to graciously relent and applaud this young teen girl for at least setting an example, but simply couldn't find anything praiseworthy about it.

"I was going to give you a chance to retract," Oprah concluded, "... but if you want to hold to that, may the powers be with you."

And Oprah isn't alone in her cynicism. On Jan. 25, ABC's "Good Morning America" reported on Bristol's interview and defended Oprah's stance. GMA's Andrea Canning referred to a 2004 Columbia University study as proof that abstinence isn't "realistic."

The study, she said, followed 12,000 teens and found that "88 percent of those who made the pledge had sex before marriage, had similar rates of STDs to those who didn't, and were actually much less likely to use contraception."

Canning didn't mention, however, that 99 percent of those who didn't take the pledge had sex. That's a difference of more than 1,300 teens. And not only did they have sex, but they had it sooner and had more sexual partners. Instead of pointing this out, Canning included a clip from the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a non-profit organization that "affirms that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human" and should be taught to teens with that in mind.

"Abstinence works when it's used consistently and correctly," SIECUS' Monica Rodriguez told Canning. "The problem is that abstinence isn't always used consistently and correctly. And when it fails, it has a really high failure rate."

Yes, but any contraception that isn't used "consistently and correctly" won't protect against pregnancy. And unlike contraception, abstinence "used consistently and correctly" has a 100 percent success rate.

Of course using abstinence as a form of birth control actually requires self-control, and that's apparently asking far too much from today's teens. According to GMA's parenting contributor Ann Pleshette Murphy, parents must emphasize protection over abstinence.  

"You can say," Murphy continued, "I want you to wait until - and you fill in the blank - but I know a lot of your friends don't, and if you're not going to wait, then you must use protection and it must be consensual. These are the messages that parents have to keep communicating."