Governor: Abstinence Worked for Me!

Pull up a seat and watch this two-minute clip of Texas Governor Rick Perry mounting the most tortured defense of abstinence-only education you’ll ever encounter.

Watch live video from Texas Tribune on

For those of you who lack the stomach to watch the clip for yourself, here’s the gist. When asked why he continues to support abstinence-only education in Texas schools, Perry gets personal:

“I’m going to tell you from my own personal life, abstinence works!”

First of all, TMI!

But more importantly, Governor, Texas has one of the highest teen birthrates in the country, so your own chaste adolescence notwithstanding, I don’t think this approach is working for everyone. Want to take another crack at it?

“If the point is we’re going to go stand up here and say y’all go have sex…I’m sorry, you can call me old-fashioned if you want, but that is not what I’m going to stand up in front of the people of the state of Texas and say that is the way we need to go and forget about abstinence.”

Okaa-aay. Hard to argue with that. I don’t think too many people want teachers standing up in front of classrooms encouraging teens to have sex. Nice try, but that sort of side-steps the issue, doesn’t it? We’re pouring millions of dollars into abstinence-only programs that don’t work. As a self-described fiscal conservative, Governor, surely you must have a response to the charge of wasteful spending.

On this point, I’ll have to summarize the governor’s response because it’s impossible to find a coherent soundbite in his bumbling analogy. The governor essentially says: well, we spend lots of money on wasteful, useless programs like steroid testing, so why shouldn’t we waste money on abstinence-only programs?

Didn’t expect that, did you? (You can almost hear the governor’s campaign staff pulling their hair out in the background.)

For a moment there, I almost felt a little pity for the governor. He’s being asked to defend the indefensible — there is no reasonable answer to the question of why Texas continues to double-down on a disastrous public health policy that has been proven ineffective. But then I remembered that the governor and scores of Texas lawmakers have made a calculated political decision to sacrifice the health and well-being of millions of Texas teens in order to score political points with the tiny minority of social conservatives who support abstinence.

Then I just felt angry.

H/T Texas Tribune.

16 thoughts on “Governor: Abstinence Worked for Me!

  1. I have a serious question.

    I got that “Texas has one of the highest teen birthrates in the country”.

    But, what are the rates for sexually transmitted diseases like for teens in Texas?

    I would think that failure to accurately inform teens about how to protect themselves from disease would make these rates high too.

  2. Jim Ramsey.

    I shudder to think what the answer is. With apologies to Seinfeld, I am reminded of an old southern saying in my neck of the woods. Sometimes people from up north notice that southern men do their business at the urinal and leave the restroom without washing their hands. Horrified, they Inquire. They are told, “Southern men from their earliest days learn how to pee without soiling themselves in any way.” Only men dressed up like Colonel Sanders are allowed to say it.

    It occurs to me that some similar standard response probably exists for your inquiry about STDs. One thing is for sure. They are not using condoms, so I have a hard time imagining what physical slight of hand would be necessary for them to stay safe.

  3. I like to refer to “abstinence-only” sex education as “ignorance-only”.

    Of course, “ignorance-only” education is an oxymoron, but that’s the point.

    Seriously, if “ignorance-only” education does a bad job of preventing pregnancy and also a bad job at preventing disease, then what does it accomplish?

    I know, I know, it’s a moral position (or something).

    Personally, I fail to see the moral position in not protecting children.

  4. @ Jim Ramsey: I checked with Centers For Disease Control and found this (I hope my columns display correctly!):

    Documented Cases of STD’s for TX teens ages 15-24 (2008 stats):

    Cases Rate
    Chlamydia 71,587 2044.0
    Gonorrhea 19,931 569.1
    P & S Syphilis 455 13.0

    I expect the number of HPV cases is much much higher. As a cytotechnologist, I see roughly a dozen cases of HPV every day in my work.

  5. Sorry, my columns did not line up like they should have. To re-write it coherently:

    Cases of Chlamydia: 71,587 (rate: 2044.0).
    Cases of Gonorrhea: 19, 931 (rate: 569.1)
    P&S Syphilis: 455 (rate 13.0)

  6. Jim: Texas appears to be at roughly the average, according to the CDC here:

    The national rates for young women there are around 3200 per 100,000 for chlamydia and 620 for gonorrhea: diagnosed cases among men are somewhat lower for both diseases, so that would drop these numbers somewhat.

    At this page: you can find that Texas is above the national average for all three diseases, but I haven’t found where the numbers are broken out by age and state yet.

  7. Oh, and while we’re at it: abstinence worked great for me between the ages of 15 and 19, too. I was so shy I abstained from even asking girls for a date.

  8. Hmmm.

    If I understand correctly, Texas’ teen pregnancy rate is much higher than the average, but its teen STD rates are about average.

    I thought about what that could mean, and here’s my guess.

    The excess pregnancies are occurring from sex between very young and inexperienced partners — thus they are less likely to have STDs.

    What do you think?

  9. Seriously, you’re asking me to believe Governor Good Hair was abstinent as a youth? Well, maybe so, seeing as he’s known for truthiness.

  10. Jim: there do seem to be a lot of pregnancies among my wife’s middle school students – and 14 years old qualifies as “very young and inexperienced” in my rankings. So you might have something there.

  11. We know we can count on his truthfulness and I am sure that the rumors of his adult indiscretiaons are seriously exaggerated. This makes it easy to understand why they don’t want him to debate