Abstinence-Only in Rep. Spitzer’s District

by Jose Medina

First things first: a big round of applause for Texas Monthly‘s R.G. Ratcliffe, who dug up this info. We encourage you to venture over to the magazine’s website to ready his piece.

Here are some interesting numbers Ratcliffe dug up:

75758: 180
75756: 74
75770: 55
75763: 61
75751: 46*
75148: 100
75124: 63
75143: 91
75158: 49
75142: 67
75160: 97
75126: 67
75161: 35*
75114: 34*
75147: 18*
75778: 24*

Random numbers? No. As you probably guessed, the first number is a zip code. The number after the zip code is the number of teen pregnancies per 1,000 teenagers in that zip code. The asterisk indicates a teen pregnancy rate for that zip code that is below the average rate for the entire state, which is 47 for every 1,000 teenagers. Only 5 of those 16 zip codes are below the state’s rate.

What all those zip codes have in common is that they’re in the state House district represented by Rep. Stuart Spitzer, R-Kaufman.

A couple of nights ago, during the House debate on the state budget, Spitzer drew plenty of attention to himself when he successfully lobbied 96 of his colleagues to strip $3 million from HIV and STD prevention programs and then send those funds to abstinence-only education.

During the debate, Spitzer admitted that abstinence-only education “may not be working well.” To be clear, it’s not. And, anecdotally, thanks to Ratcliffe, we can say it is definitely not working in Spitzer’s district, where the schools teach abstinence-only yet the teen pregnancy rate is way beyond what it is in the rest of the state.

So when Spitzer and his supporters say — as Gov. Perry famously did — “abstinence works,” remind them that abstinence-only education doesn’t. Sadly, though, in this instance Spitzer and his colleagues were willing to defund a program whose mission is to save lives (and does) and instead use the money for an ideologically driven policy that has been shown, repeatedly, to be failure.