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Weak Argument for Abstinence

Texas governor Rick Perry was recently interviewed by the Texas Tribune (3:00 video), and he was asked about the value of abstinence-only sex education.  The interviewer said that Texas has the third-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.

Perry’s response: “Abstinence works.”

Let’s make a distinction between abstinence (that is, actually abstaining from sex) and abstinence as a policy.  Perry is right, of course, that “abstinence works” in the first case.  It works by definition.  But the question is: Is teaching schoolchildren that abstinence is the way to prevent pregnancy the best approach?  Does it lead to the fewest unwanted pregnancies?

The punch line is that Perry cited steroid testing within schools as something that yielded very poor results.  The interviewer asked if Perry is saying that that was a poor expenditure of money.  Nope—“If that’s a good expenditure, then I would suggest to you that the dollars we’re spending on abstinence education is a good expenditure.”  Huh?  The question is whether or not there’s something better.

Moving on to the larger abortion debate, it’s hard for me to understand someone saying that abortion is murder and then not demanding the most effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  If you really, really hate abortion, then teach teens in a way that minimizes the unwanted pregnancies.

The graphic above shows abortion rates by country, with dark being worse.  Compare the dark United States with lighter Europe.  For example, the teen abortion rate in the US is 30 per 1000, but in the Netherlands, it’s less than 4!

Looks like there’s room for improvement.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • RandomFunction2

    Hi Bob,

    Maybe you’re right, but I read another stats that states that those that use contraception are more likely to resort to abortion than those that only use abstinence and the natural methods of birth control. I may give you the source, but it’s in a book in French that is unlikely to have been translated… But the one that pointed it out was Cardinal Ratzinger, I think. It’s him who was quoted in the book.

    • http://crossexaminedblog.com bobseidensticker

      But won’t the ones who use contraception have less need for abortions?

      If you come across stats on this, please pass them along.

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