During his time as a Delta County Commissioner, state Senate candidate Olen Lund imposed abstinence-only educational programs on local students that are known to be ineffective and unethical.
Lund is running to unseat Democrat Kerry Donovan in Senate District 5, which encompasses Chaffee, Delta, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake and Pitkin counties.
When Lund, a Republican, served as a Delta County Commissioner between 2004 and 2012, he and the other commissioners declared “Abstinence Awareness Week” and funded abstinence-only educational programs in Delta County schools, according to meeting minutes.
Such programs encourage young people to abstain from sexual contact in large part to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. But they also tend to promote the ultra-conservative idea that monogamous, heterosexual marriage is the only appropriate context for sexual intercourse, and that abstinence until marriage is the only legitimate way to prevent unplanned pregnancy and STDs.
In particular, the Delta County Commission supported trainings from the Denver-based group WAIT, an acronym for “Why Am I Tempted.” The so-called WAIT trainings have been known to use shame and guilt-based methods, provide medically inaccurate information, and reinforce harmful gender stereotypes.
In 2011, a Westword cover story focused on WAIT’s questionable methods. Here’s an excerpt from a WAIT training video in Loveland:
“Girls’ brains are like spaghetti, boys’ brains are like waffles…boys tuck schoolbooks under their arms at the waist, girls cradle theirs like a baby…boys were made to pursue girls and girls were made to wait to be pursued by boys…we have an entire generation of girls looking for daddy love…you just have to get that viable sperm close to her vagina and she turns on the little Hoover vacuum, because girls are very, very fertile…”
The research on whether abstinence education works is clear. Study after study has shown that these methods are ineffective at encouraging young people to abstain from sex and don’t prevent teen pregnancy or the transmission of STDs.
Abstinence programs appear not to have helped in Delta County. During the time that Lund and the other commissioners were promoting the WAIT program, Delta County’s average teen birth rate was substantially higher than the statewide average.
A different Colorado program, however, has proved to be wildly successful in preventing teen pregnancy.
That’s Colorado’s long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) program, which provided IUDs at little or no cost to low-income women statewide. According to an independent study by the University of Colorado from 2017, LARC cut the state’s teen birth rate in half and avoided around $60 million in public assistance costs associated with teen pregnancy between 2009 and 2015.
Lund’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.