September 02, 2008

The inanity begins with Bristol Palin

Let's go locally with Ronnie Polaneczky at the Philly Daily News. Her thesis? Abstinence-only sex ed. classes don't work:

Palin, a strong advocate of abstinence-only sex education, didn't address the fact that the just-say-no method of birth control obviously failed for Bristol - the way, studies show, it fails so many teens.

At least Bristol falls into a luckier camp than those other sexually active teens. Her family is well-educated, well-resourced and intact, and they'll provide plenty of help as she learns the ropes of parenthood.

While Bristol has her folks as backup, I can't help thinking of all the other 17-year-olds - teens as sexually active as Bristol obviously is - who deserve to learn about all methods of birth control, not just abstinence.

Let's cut to the chase: Polaneczky's implication is that a comprehensive sex ed. program in schools would have allowed Bristol to escape being pregnant -- and this goes for many other young women (teenage girls) too. In other words, sex education prevents teen pregnancies or, at least, reduces them.

But does it? Has it?

Comprehensive sex ed. programs began in the US as early as 1953. They really began to proliferate in the 1960s and 70s. Yet, a cursory glance at teen pregnancy rates from 1972 to 2002 shows increases in teen pregnancies throughout the 70s and 80s.

How can this be -- just as sex ed. programs were expanding?

Based on the data, I can see partisans from both sides making connections: "The Democrats were in power in the 70s," or "Look at the Reagan years compared to the Clinton years!" This isn't the point. The point is that, while I concur with the larger issue Polaneczky raises -- that abstinence-only sex ed. shouldn't be the only type of sex ed. available in (public) schools -- the fact of the matter is that learning about various contraceptive methods hasn't resulted in a continuing decline of the teen pregnancy rate either.

So what Polaneczky claims in her title -- "Bristol Palin: Proof that abstinence-only education doesn't work" -- is just a cheap political shot for several reasons. One, we don't know if Bristol received abstinence-only sex ed. teaching in the first place. Two, if Bristol had learned about various methods of contraception and still got pregnant, could we then state that this is proof that "contraceptive education doesn't work"? Following Polaneczky's logic, we certainly could!

Does Polaneczky know how many teenage girls abstinence-only education has helped? No, because the results are fairly inconclusive. But again, she doesn't care. She wants to score a cheap point using the conservative GOP veep candidate's daughter.

I wonder if Polaneczky would write a column if, say Joycelyn Elders' (Elders being one of the biggest advocates of comprehensive sex ed. programs in schools) grand-daughter, who had attended a comprehensive sex ed. program in school -- covering all sorts of contraception -- but still got pregnant at age 17. I bet she'd be in her office the very next day to write that column about how sex ed. programs are a failure. Right?

Keep dreaming.

(Story h/t to the irrepressible Gooch!)

Posted by Hube at September 2, 2008 05:39 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

the fact that the just-say-no method of birth control obviously failed for Bristol

Um, it didn't fail, because she obviously didn't practice it. Besides which, are we sure they weren't using birth control that failed or they failed to use correctly? Would the reaction be any different if that were the case?

Posted by: Paul Smith at September 2, 2008 06:22 PM

I thought that very same thing too, Paul.

Posted by: Hube at September 2, 2008 06:33 PM


I give you credit - you are too fair in writing a lengthy and thorough rebuttal.

I am familiar with Ronnie - she is a city girl, lives in Fairmount where she grew up and has a couple kids. She is generally reasonable. It must be that the Kool Aid and lefty peer pressure just brainwashes these folks. It's like they have a machine that can churn the same talking points no matter if you are Bob herbert or Saly Quinn etc.

Keep fighting the good fight.

Posted by: AJ Lynch at September 2, 2008 11:57 PM

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