It’s bad enough that Texas is failing teens by promoting ignorance about responsible pregnancy and disease prevention in sexuality education classes. But is it really too much to ask that public policy-makers and assorted pressure groups not wallow in ignorance as well?
Our new report on sexuality education reveals that more than nine in 10 public school districts in Texas teach either abstinence-only or nothing at all when it comes to sexuality education. That’s the case despite the state’s high rate of teen births, the increasing problem of sexually transmitted diseases among youth and recent major studies showing that abstinence-only programs are simply ineffective. (See here for one such study. Our report, page 2, notes others.)
But supporters of abstinence-only programs are still burying their heads in the sand — like this spokesperson from the Free Market Foundation Focus on the Family-Texas:
Jonathan Saenz of the Free Market Foundation, a conservative group that supports abstinence-based programs, questioned the criticism of those programs, citing links between the Texas Freedom Network and Planned Parenthood.
“These groups want teenagers to have more sex and learn more about sex at an earlier age,” he said. “You can give students greater access to contraception and abortion, but that’s not good for Texas.”
Complete nonsense. Educating young people about responsible pregnancy and disease prevention is a way to decrease the number of abortions and raise healthy teens. Keeping them ignorant certainly isn’t working.
Then yesterday Gov. Rick Perry’s office responded to calls by lawmakers to improve sexuality education in Texas:
Republican Gov. Rick Perry … “is comfortable with current law and supports abstinence programs,” his spokeswoman, Allison Castle, said.
And in the same story, we read this gem from a Perry ally:
The conservative Texas Eagle Forum views the Democrats’ proposal as trying to cover up immoral behavior by men and doing the bidding of abortion providers, Cathie Adams, president of the organization, said. “I see this as a very anti-woman, anti-girl attempt,” Adams said. “It’s putting immorality off on children.”
Good heavens. So much reckless blather in one little quote.
Of course, the official Texas Republican Party platform also opposes “any sex education other than abstinence until heterosexual marriage.”
Look. Support for teaching young people the importance of abstinence is almost universal. In fact, we haven’t met anyone who thinks it’s a good idea for teens to be sexually active. But too many of them already are.
When so many influential officials and pressure groups are intent on keeping young Texans ignorant about sexuality and health, is it any surprise that the state’s taxpayers spend more than $1 billion annually on the costs of teen childbearing? That Texas teens rate well above national averages on virtually every published statistic involving sexual risk-taking behaviors? That the teen birthrate in Texas, already the nation’s third highest, is rising?
Yet proponents of abstinence ignorance programs continue to prattle on with their well-rehearsed talking points even though what they are saying has no basis in reality. Ignorance clearly is breeding ignorance in Texas.