The Return of Abstinence

Why worry about science and date when you've got ideology to keep you going?  Might as well be the slogan of the modern Republican party.  The ongoing support for the failed and discreditd abstinence programs is exhibit A.  From Suzy Khimm at TNR:

 Last night, the Senate Finance Committee tried to ensure
that one of the failures of the Bush administration will live on–in
sex-ed classes across the country. Orrin Hatch’s amendment to provide
$50 million a year for abstinence-only education passed by one vote,
12-11, with Blanche Lincoln and Kent Conrad joining the Republicans to
tip the balance..

The vote deals a blow to the advocates of comprehensive sex education, who have wielded definitive evidence that
ab-only education is ineffective, misleading, and dangerous to the
health of young people. (One of the most recent studies links ab-only
education to a 10% decline in teen contraceptive use, for example—not surprising when some of the teaching material tells kids
to believe that condoms aren’t effective at preventing HIV because
latex is “porous.”) Even more tellingly, nearly half the states in the
country have come to the same realization—23 states have rejected the
federal funds for abstinence-only education, even in the midst of a
deep fiscal crisis, having deemed such programs to be ineffective and
the regulations for using the funding onerous. The states’ message to
the federal government couldn’t be clearer: stop wasting money on
programs that don’t work.

Unfortunately, the centrists and Republicans on the
Senate Finance Committee don’t seem to have gotten the memo. While
they’ve gone out of their way to berate the
cost of the health care bill, Hatch and his compatriots make an
exception for a failed program that has amounted to an ideological

The Guardian article linked to above, has a nice run-down of the evidence, if you don't believe me or TNR.  This is also a good time to plug the documentary, "The Education of Shelby Know," a entertaining and informative tale of a teenager from a conservative home in conservative Lubbock, TX(!!) who takes on the abstinence-only establishment in the hopes of reducing Lubbock's absurdly high teen pregnancy rate.  You can actually get it from Blockbuster or Netflix.  I will admit to having an especially soft spot for it due to the Lubbock angle.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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