Texas Launches Abstinence-Only Website

Texas has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and teen births in the country — and 22% of teens who give birth in that state already have a baby — but they’re refusing to stop the abstinence-only sex ed and have now decided that the way to fix it is to put up a website saying, “Hey, you guys should just stop having sex.”

In light of those statistics, how is Texas’ Department of Health hoping to help prevent future unintended pregnancies among young women? By spending $1.2 million to build an abstinence-only website that doesn’t include any mention of contraception.

The “Our Town 4 Teens” site notes some sobering facts — Texas ranks first in the nation for taxpayer expenditures related to teen pregnancy, for example — but doesn’t actually offer concrete solutions for disseminating sexual health information. As the Texas Observer notes, “it seems primarily to be a home for buzzwords like ‘community mobilization,’ ‘strategic action’ and ‘conceptual framework.’ ”

When the Texas Observer asked a health department official why “Our Town 4 Teens” doesn’t mention anything about birth control, a spokesperson replied, “The campaign focuses on the delay of sexual activity as a way to decrease the teen birth rate and the rate of sexually transmitted diseases. State laws guide the agency, and as a general strategy Texas is an abstinence-first state. Abstinence is our first choice for teens.”

It’s just so laughable. “Hey, I know we’ve been teaching kids in school not to have sex every year but they just keep doing it. But maybe if we get one of those newfangled website thingies the kids love these days, it’ll work better.” Yeah, maybe you should Tweet abstinence-only messages to them, cuz that’ll make them stop having sex.

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  • zero6ix

    I don’t live in Texas, but I get my local news from there. And it blows my mind when I see television commercials stating these facts. “Texas has the highest rate of teen pregnancy! What are we to do?” Straight faced ad time, wondering why they have so many teens having kids, and completely missing the elephant in the room. It’s patently absurd that money would be spent on recognizing an issue and not spending any time wondering “Hey, obviously what we’re doing is not working. At all. Maybe we should stop saying that abstinence is the only way to do business, and instead say ‘If you’re going to bump uglies, at least wear a rubber.'” It isn’t that far a stretch.

    Well, maybe for Texas it is. I don’t know. I don’t live there, I just get to witness the bumbling.

  • tbp1

    “Hey, you guys should just stop having sex.”

    If that approach actually worked, there would hardly be any poetry, novels, theater, folk tales, mythology, folk song, art song, opera, or musicals. The visual arts would be changed as well, although possibly not quite as much. History would be vastly different.

    Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with reality should know that this idea is absurd. And even if they didn’t know that intuitively, the actual data confirm it way beyond reasonable doubt. Those places with comprehensive, biology-based sex ed have much better outcomes in the real world than places with abstinence based education: lower teen pregnancy rates, fewer STDs, fewer children living in poverty…

    Of course to the people propagating this nonsense, increased social pathologies because of unrealistic sex ed is probably a feature rather than a bug. After all, people, including innocent children and especially women, should suffer for daring to have sex.

  • Texas is an abstinence-first state. Abstinence is our first choice for teens.

    It is also their second, third and second-to-last choice. Last choice is the Rapture.

  • Synfandel

    …Texas is an abstinence-first state.

    Perhaps, but no teenager is an abstinence-first teenager—at least not by choice. Teenagers are awash in hormones that tell their brains, “You really should have sex right now!” Guess what? A lot of them are going to listen to those hormones even if they’ve seen the Texas Department of Health’s Web site.

    The question is not how to keep them from having sex—that’s a lost battle before it starts—the question is how to you keep them from getting pregnant or getting STDs. The answer, of course, is sex education.

  • smhll

    The only thought in my mind is “Oh, can you jerk off to it?” Not that kind of a website. Hmmm.

  • DaveL

    Am I the only one who finds the phrase “Abstinence is our first choice for teens” to be creepy and bizarre? As if the state were the one actually making choices in these teens’ sex lives?

  • Synfandel, you’re doing teens a major disservice when you talk about them like they’re nothing but uncaring uncontrollable horndogs who can never disobey their hormones. It’s utter simpleminded bullshit, and it’s part and parcel of the reactionary authoritarian mindset that leads to such nonsensical non-policies as we’re discussing here.

    That is, in fact, precisely why comprehensive explicit sex-ed is so necessary: yes, teens have sexual desires and curiosity, but they also have an equal amount of fear and apprehension, because they do understand that sex is dangerous, and they know they need good information to help them with the choices in front of them. And when you gave them that information — instead of just mindlessly assuming they’re too popped up on erototoxins to think straight — they do listen to it and use it.

  • unbound

    “Hey, you guys should just stop having sex.”

    So the typical Texas Republican says as he bangs his mistress.

  • I am convinced Texas is determined to listen to scientists, to study the conclusions of solid scientific research, and implement the exact opposite. No matter what.

  • anne mariehovgaard

    The campaign focuses on the delay of sexual activity as a way to decrease the teen birth rate and the rate of sexually transmitted diseases.

    This makes no sense. Is the campaign meant to bring attention to the brand new, never actually tested, idea that, in theory, this might work?

    State laws guide the agency, and as a general strategy Texas is an abstinence-first state.

    As a general strategy, we have no other strategy…

    Abstinence is our first choice for teens.

    But you’re not the ones making the choice, are you?

  • Mr Ed

    Thechwa this is Texas so plan B is prayer, lots and lots of prayer.

    I recommend that Texas use a poorly animated head of Nancy Reagan repeating “just say no” over and over. Work for the war on drugs.

  • Trebuchet

    The RC Church has been trying this approach for at least 1500 years. It hasn’t worked for them, even on their priests.

  • Trebuchet should win at least a few tubes for that quick debunking of abstinence-only sex-ed.

  • To appeal to the kids these days, the next step is a video game. Angry Sperms? Crazy Testes? Grand Theft Abstinence?

  • uzza

    Abstinence is a birth control strategy like bald is a hair color .

  • eric

    To appeal to the kids these days, the next step is a video game.

    Grand Abstain IV: the moment you open the box/download the executable, you lose.

  • Pteryxx

    Whether or not y’all live in Texas, note that federal funds go to these programs. The local Repubs are happy to scarf up THOSE federal monies.

    The new site is partly funded by a federal grant from the Title V State Abstinence Education Grant Program. Title V recipients are supposed to earmark those federal funds for state-level programs that emphasize abstinence until marriage. The Title V funding was first attached to a provision in the 1996 welfare reform bill, and has been renewed periodically since then. For instance, a Republican-sponsored amendment attached to the Senate version of the health reform bill ended up extending the funding for the program through 2014.

    The Obama administration has attempted to backtrack from abstinence-only programs — and the president actually eliminated the Title V fund in his 2010 federal budget — but social conservatives in Congress have fought back. The restoration of the abstinence grants was ultimately a concession to get Obamacare passed.

    And, as the Texas Observer notes, the Lone Star State has chosen to aggressively seek out those funds. Texas’ health department tends to supplement federal funding for abstinence programs with its own state money, and the Republican lawmakers in the state have repeatedly enshrined abstinence-only education within their official party platform.

    From the ThinkProgress article cited in the OP.

  • busterggi

    “Our Town 4 Teens”

    Really? Naming your program after a thoroughly depressing play is not a good idea.

  • Pteryxx

    and from the Texas Observer:

    The federal Title V abstinence program is a big favorite in Texas. Even though the Obama administration cut abstinence-only funding when evidence showed that programs promoting contraception as well as abstinence—commonly-called “abstinence-plus”—were more effective in reducing teen pregnancy, Texas still prefers to get its money from the abstinence-only spigot. For 2014, the Texas Department of State Health Services received $5.1 million in federal money (some of which paid for this website) from the Title V program, and matched it with another $559,000 from general state revenue.

    Local entities in Texas do receive some federal funding for comprehensive pregnancy prevention programs ($7.6 million in 2011 according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States), but there could have been much more. In 2011, the Texas Freedom Network revealed that the governor’s office and the Texas attorney general prevented the health department from applying for millions of dollars from a federal funding pot known as Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP). PREP programs promote contraception as well as abstinence.


  • magistramarla

    I’ve seen that commercial a lot since moving back to Texas. I laugh at it, think that it is a horrible waste of my tax money or yell at my TV – “How about teaching them real sex-ed” depending upon my mood at the time.

  • laurentweppe

    they’re refusing to stop the abstinence-only sex ed

    Well, of course they refuse to do that: the program is working as intended: the underclass produce more cheap working arms, the teen mothers are even more doome to stay at the bottom of the social fodd chain while the wealthy parents know better and teach their own kids to not believe the bullshit intended for the plebs.

  • colnago80

    You folks just don’t understand. To the fuckken born agains, pregnancy is considered punishment for “immoral behavior”.

  • Let’s ignore the obvious failure that is abstinence-only sex ed for a a second. Now, how in the hell can a website possibly cost $1.2 million? I know they have to pay for a designer, server, and probably a couple of IT people to maintain the site. How does any of that cost more than 6 figures though? Especially considering that they will get almost no traffic after the laughter has died down.

  • caseloweraz

    The “Our Town 4 Teens” site notes some sobering facts…

    Indeed it does. And it deals with them in a completely unserious way. In future, I pledge to abstain from only this one particular Web site.

    (It should surprise no one that the site doesn’t validate. I’ll spare you the report.)

  • exdrone

    The “Our Town 4 Teens” site

    I think this is a copy-and-paste error. The website is called “Our Town”. The other bit is just the subscriber counter.

  • davideriksen

    Just for giggles, I checked out the Latest Research section on the site. Would anyone be surprised to learn that there are no links stating that abstinence only education works?

    There are 4 documents linked. Only one goes to actual peer-reviewed research. Not surprisingly, it’s barely germane to the topic at all*. Two of the links are about forming community groups that actually stress using evidence-based programs though neither is explicit about what that means. The last one is about using the Affordable Care Act to improve access to mental health services for youth.

    The last one is especially amusing since TX is doing everything it can to shut down the ACA at both the state and federal levels. I’m really looking forward to leaving this place.

    *The study is about how best practices and perceived short-term outcomes** correlate with viability in local teen pregnancy coalitions.

    **Distinctly lacking is any measure of actual success.

  • No One

    “federal funding for abstinence programs”

    Literally money for nothing.

  • freehand

    colnago80@22: You folks just don’t understand. To the fuckken born agains, pregnancy is considered punishment for “immoral behavior”.

    It’s difficult to slut-shame a young lady if she isn’t preggers. Preventing pregnancy subverts God’s plan to make sinners miserable in life. And speaking of that, teaching kids that they can make choices in their own best interest absolutely goes against God’s will. If we can control ourselves, what’s the point of begging for forgiveness from Jesus for our uncontrollable behavior?

    God’s plan for salvation:

    1. Tell the little rug rats what they’re supposed to do or not do.

    2. Make it nearly impossible for them to not sin.

    3. Make them feel so guilty they ask God for mercy for being human and feel grateful that abusive the Daddy in the Sky isn’t whipping them even harder.

    4. Work ’em to death, and send them to church on their day off.

    5. Profit!

  • freehand

    Ouabache: Let’s ignore the obvious failure that is abstinence-only sex ed for a a second. Now, how in the hell can a website possibly cost $1.2 million?

    You forgot to add in the manager’s salary of $600,000 yearly.