Gov. G.W.Bush and Abstinence-Only Education

I said that I would review today the studies of various states on abstinence-only sex education. That project would require me to read hundreds of pages, and I’m not in the mood to do that right now. I may postpone this project for another day. Maybe I’ll read them the next time a new study dogmatically criticizes abstinence-only sex education. Or I’ll look at one or two of the studies when I don’t have any other ideas for posts. At the moment, I’ll give you the link so that you can read it, if you are interested. It is Five Years of Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Education: Assessing the Impact. This study was put out by Advocates of Youth, and it has links to several state studies. Advocates for Youth itself is opposed to abstinence-only sex education, but what I read in some of the state studies was more complex than “Abstinence-only sex ed is a failure.” The studies I scanned presented positive aspects of the programs or offered suggestions for improvement (e.g., greater duration, group discussions, role playing on saying “no,” etc.), without necessarily recommending that they abandon their abstinence-only message.

What I’d like to discuss today is a popular liberal argument against abstinence-only sex education. I found it when I searched under “Bush AND abstinence AND Texas” on Yahoo. The argument is that Texas under Governor George Bush funded abstinence-only sex education, but the results were nil. Texas still had high teen pregnancy and STD rates, and its reduction in the teen pregnancy rate was significantly lower than that of other states. I’ll make two points on this:

First, at least teenage pregnancy rates went down under Governor Bush. From what I can see from the Alan Guttmacher Institute’s own statistics, they did not decline under Democratic Governor Ann Richards, whose daughter currently heads Planned Parenthood. The number of AIDS and Syphilis cases also decreased under Governor Bush (see the 2001 HIV/STD Annual Report). The number of Gonorrhea cases was lower under Bush than it was during previous administrations (since 1972). Texas was far from perfect during the Bush years, since the number of Chlamydia cases increased, but my point is that we should not say that Bush’s Governorship attests to the utter ineffectiveness of abstinence-only sex education. His record was pretty good, as far as records go.

Second, looking at Texas by itself does not shed light on whether abstinence-only sex education is effective. During Bush’s Governorship, there were times when California had higher rates of teenage pregnancy than Texas, and it also increased in the prevalence of certain STDs (see HIV/AIDS, STD & TB Prevention). California is known for its comprehensive sex education, so why don’t we grade the condom-based programs poorly? Moreover, there are states with low teen pregnancy rates that have had abstinence-only programs. Iowa and South Carolina are examples. So the statistics of a single state do not invalidate the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education. The liberal appeal to Texas is a cheap shot at Bush, not a reliable analysis of sex education programs.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to Gov. G.W.Bush and Abstinence-Only Education

  1. Brijesh Kumar says:

    Your blog contain enough resources about teen pregnancy. Its really too nice.


  2. James Pate says:

    Thanks for reading! Yeah, I wish I could find more up-to-date ones, but every search I do only leads me to the 2000 Guttmacher statistics.


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