July 10, 2014

Don't Mess With Texas:
How's that abstinence-only working for you right now?

Rick Perry, governor of Texas and a guy I once imagined voting for as president, claims that his state's abstinence-only program is behind a statewide drop in teenage pregnancies.

As you all can probably expect, there's more to the story. Also, I don't agree.

Big surprise, I know.

But the bottom line, once again, is that abstinence-only sex ed does not work, and states would be better off funneling their resources into comprehensive programs that cover teenage sexuality from a variety of bases.

But, naturally, this story is from Texas and I'm basically talking to myself.

To start my dissenting opinion, let me point out that Perry is full of shit. Yes, there's a decline in teen pregnancies in Texas--one that still lags behind the rest of the nation by nearly a full 10%. The New York Times points out:
Texas did not fare as well, reporting a 43 percent decline for that period. The state has the nation’s fifth-highest birthrate among teenagers — 44.4 births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 — behind Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Texas, where schools are not required to teach sex education, also reported the highest rate of repeat births among teenagers in that age group.Teenage births cost Texas taxpayers $1.1 billion in health care, foster care and lost tax revenue in 2010, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Teenage mothers often drop out of school, specialists say, and their children are likelier to become teenage parents.
So the statistics are a little more complex than Perry would have us believe. They are not clear cut--the birthrate is still among the highest in the nation, and it still causes real issues both for the individuals giving birth and for society at large.

Within the state, there's also disagreement that the statistics show that abstinence-only is working:
Dr. Janet Realini, president of Healthy Futures of Texas, a nonprofit that works to prevent teenage pregnancies, said Texas’ often-ineffective  sex education helped explain the state’s relatively high teenage birthrate. Other factors, she said, included the limited access to health care and insurance for the poor, as well as the high rates of school dropouts and poverty.
Maybe it's a dead horse, but I'm going to keep beating it: abstinence-only doesn't work.

It's not that abstinence isn't a good thing. For kids that commit to it, I think it's the best thing. But how we approach it is wrong. Teenagers need to understand their sexuality as a natural phenomenon--not something to be repressed and feared.

So Perry, in addition to many of our views having shifted over the past few years, this is also a divergence. Alas, I don't think you can count me as a fan any longer.

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