One of the numbingly depressing things about the Bush administration, just a singular pixel in the vast canvas of ineptitude and failure that will be remembered as the 43rd Presidency of these United States, is the evidence-free reliance on abstinence-only education programs as a way to try and reduce teenage sexual activity and pregnancy.
I’ve written about this before, which isn’t surprising, since it’s been a consistent story since the early years of the Bush Administration. But Steve Benen found a new story explaining, yet again, how these programs simply and utterly fail at their stated goals.
The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a “virginity pledge,” but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.
As Benen says: “Got that? The difference between teens who make abstinence “pledges” and teens who don’t isn’t sexual conduct, it’s that those who make the “pledges” engage in more dangerous sexual conduct.”
Now, I am normally completely in favor of seeing people’s faces rubbed in the fact that their deeply-held beliefs are complete and utter horseshit, especially on issues, like sex education, that leave them inherently uncomfortable and incapable of having a rational conversation. The biggest reason that there was such a hullabaloo about Bristol Palin’s illegitimate pregnancy, not to mention the arrest on drug charges of her mother-in-law-to-be, was the inherent schadenfreude of seeing a conservative champion of “family values” hoist on the petard of reality. And, really, I’m for that.
The problem is – there are real, innocent people who are affected here. If the only outcome of the spread of abstinence-only programs were that some Christian fundie types got herpes or chlamydia, and embarrassingly had to spend most of their lives on some sort of preventetive drug regimen in order to stay healthy, so be it. I’m down with that – maybe they’ll actually learn some lessons and teach their undoubtedly unplanned, out-of-wedlock kids to put on a freaking rubber.
But those kids, born to unmarried women who are in no way, shape, or form ready to be good parents, are the ones who really suffer. And for them, I have to swallow my joy in the ironic suffering of abstinence-only fundamentalists and fight back, insisting that we do everything we can to make sure that when kids have sex, as they undoubtedly will, they do so responsibly and safely.