While 'Abstinence-Only' Pols Get Caught With Their Pants Down, Progressives Are Still Reducing Teen Pregnancies
Let's play the Telling Juxtaposition Game! One of the bigger stories this week was the resignation of Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), a fiery culture warrior and staunch advocate of abstinence-only education, after it was revealed that he was cheating on his wife with a part-time staffer, perhaps in public parks. In less salacious news, the Guttmacher Institute released a a new study, “Winning Campaign: California’s Concerted Effort to Reduce Its Teen Pregnancy Rate” (PDF). From Guttmacher's press release:
California’s teen pregnancy rate declined by 52% between 1992 and 2005, the steepest drop registered by any state over that period—and far above the national decline of 37%. Public health experts credit this record decline to California’s aggressive and evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention efforts dating back to the 1990s ... “California has made teen pregnancy prevention a high public policy priority, with a strong emphasis on providing teens comprehensive sex education and the health care services and counseling they need to prevent pregnancy,” says Heather Boonstra, author of the new analysis. “Above all, California’s success demonstrates that policies matter—both in allotting the necessary resources and in ensuring that the right types of information and services are available.”Telling juxtaposition, no? And it should come as no surprise. Back in May, NPR did a segment on Red States and their "family values":
Many of our assumptions about the cultural divide between red and blue states may be wrong. New research shows that more liberal states, like Massachusetts, tend to have the lowest rates of divorce and teen childbirth. In other words the most stable families, the homes with two parents to nurture their kids, are found in the liberal strongholds along the East and West Coasts. Conversely, the higher rates of teen childbirth and divorce occur in the red states that conservatives so often celebrate as the heartland of family values.I've always thought abstinence-only was among the best examples of privileging ideology over common sense. Mark Souder himself explained why in the now-infamous abstinence-only video he produced with his staff paramour. At one point, he complained that efforts "to get kids to abstain from sex" are just really, inherently difficult. "Guess what?" he asked at one point in the video, "Nothing works very well." And he's right! One thing that's held true during tens of thousands of years of human existence is this: simply telling teenagers not to screw has never actually kept them from doing it. And when they do the deed, as they inevitably will, those who have only ever been told not to screw don't know how to prevent pregnancies. Or they know but don't have access to birth control in their conservative communities. And when they get knocked up, they're less likely to have a real choice to abort the pregnancy -- either because of social stigma or practical barriers to reproductive health services. So, many get married when they're still kids themselves, and many of those marriages go belly up a few years down the road.