sex ed

Mike Pence Doesn’t Understand How Condoms Work

Indiana governor Mike Pence.
Indiana governor Mike Pence. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

BuzzFeed has uncovered an enlightening piece of information about Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence from a 2002 interview. The pro-life governor of Indiana thinks condoms are useless.

In 2002, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell caused a bit of a kerfuffle among conservatives when asked during an MTV forum if he supported the Pope’s stance against condom use. Specifically, Powell, a Republican, said he supported — nay, encouraged — condom use among people who are sexually active to help prevent sexually transmitted diseases. The dogma of the George W. Bush administration had been abstinence-only education, but the White House supported Powell.

CNN asked then-congressman Pence to appear alongside Democrat Jan Schakowsky of Illinois for a discussion. When Wolf Blitzer asked Pence what he thought of Powell endorsing condom use, Pence had this to say:

Well, Wolf, I think it was — given the enormous stature that Colin Powell rightly has, not only in America but in the world community, it was a sad day… And the truth is that Colin Powell had an opportunity here to reaffirm this president’s commitment to abstinence as the best choice for our young people, and he chose not to do that in the first instance, but —  and so I think it’s very sad. The other part is that, frankly, condoms are a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases, and in that sense, Wolf, this was — the secretary of state maybe inadvertently misleading millions of young people and endangering lives.

Uh-huh. Condoms, the physical barrier which the CDC says are “highly effective” at preventing STDs, offer poor protection, according to Mike Pence, M.D. But he didn’t stop there:

I just simply believe the only truly safe sex, Wolf, as the president believes, is no sex. And we ought to, with leaders of the stature of the secretary of state, we ought to be sending a message to kids across the country and the opportunity had across the world that abstinence is the best choice for young people. But let’s be clear, last year, the National Institute of Health, Wolf, and some 28 separate experts said at least a half dozen to ten sexually transmitted diseases for which condom use has zero preventative value. The secretary of state is simply wrong.

Did the NIH really say that? In a word, no. A 2001 report said condoms clearly prevented the spread of HIV and gonorrhea but there was insufficient evidence that condoms offered protection against human papillomavirus, chlamydia, syphilis, chancroid, trichomoniasis, and genital herpes. But it does not mean that they don’t work; it means that more research is needed. As someone close to the report told the Washington Post: “It is extremely important that the public understand the difference between data being inadequate and condoms being inadequate.” It is definitely not zero protection.

Pence finally admitted that he wasn’t comfortable with Powell’s response, because it was too modern and liberal. “The problem is it was too modern of an answer, Wolf. It was — it truly was a modern, liberal answer to a problem that parents like me are facing all over America, and frankly, all over the world.”

That’s right, just pretend your kids will never have sex so you don’t have to talk to them about condoms.

Mike Pence Doesn’t Understand How Condoms Work