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

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  • Brandon Roberts

    look i’m pro abstinence cause even if you don’t get pregnant even if you don’t have std there’s no pill’condom etc. strong enough to keep you from getting a broken heart and teenagers are irresponsible they could easily forget condoms or pills.

    • Huh? Abstinence prevents broken hearts?

      Teens have adult bodies. You may not like that, but it’s just a fact. Let’s teach them how to use them responsibly.

      • Brandon Roberts

        look i did not say that they don’t what i meant was if a teenage boy has sex with his girlfriend and dumps her cause he had what he wanted that will break her heart and i meant abstinence prevents sex prevented broken hearts. and what i’m in favor is. is a combination teach kids about contraception while also teaching them abstinence. and i know teens have adult bodies and if they want sex they’re probaly going to have it. and i have no problem with telling kids about condoms. but i’m for abstinence because i see it as foolproof. but just like i’m sure your opinions come from it comes from a place of caring (i’m sure your opinions too)

        • I don’t see how a world in which no one had sex before marriage would be a world without broken hearts.

          Premarital sex is one of those sins that you can make not a sin with just a redefinition. It doesn’t actually cause any inherent harm (though that doesn’t mean that it isn’t without danger, like a car).

          I’ve written more here.

        • Brandon Roberts

          that was an interesting read i was just saying that teenagers are often not prepared for the emotional toll of sex and yes it is not like murder or theft but i just think and i’m sure everyone can agree people should be 100% sure they’re ready for sex and that it’s the right person ok

        • Sex is not that big a deal among consenting people. How many things would never be attempted if we had to be “100% sure” before?

        • Brandon Roberts

          yes that’s true but what i’m saying is losing your virginity should be a cherished memory that you hold dear forever and this is not rocket science physics or curing a disease (yes these 3 are far more important) but it should be done because 2 consenting people want too not just to get it done and i’m not saying don’t have sex outside marriage i’m saying that teenagers (as well as first timer adults)should be ready and i’m still pro-abstinence but i think that it should be up too the people