Cheat-Seeking Missles

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Did Bush Get Jamie Lynn Pregnant?

Is abstinence education to blame for Jamie Lynn Spears' teen pregnancy?

There's plenty of reason to believe it is not. Jamie Lynn has received plenty of real-life sex education from her older sister, whose two babies weren't brought by storks after the birds and bees did their thing. Plus, as a TV star, Jamie Lynn has hardly had a typical classroom education, where curricula teach abstinence.

And besides, California is one of a growing number of states that doesn't teach abstinence, despite the loss of some federal education dollars. (I'm presuming that as a TV star, Jamie Lynn lives in California, but I admit I an no expert in the lives of celebrities.)

But to read today's USA Today editorial on the horrors of abstinence education, you would think it was the teaching of abstinence that got Jamie Lynn pregnant, and that it's to blame for a rising tide of teenage pregnancies:
For Christian conservatives, the pregnancy, at 16, of Nickelodeon actress Jamie Lynn Spears — the wholesome star of Zoey 101 and younger sister of troubled singer Britney Spears — poses a good news-bad news dilemma.

"We should commend girls like Jamie Lynn Spears for making a courageous decision to have the baby," summed up Bill Maier, vice president of the conservative ministry Focus on the Family. "On the other hand, there's nothing glamorous or fun about being an unwed teen mother."

No one would argue with that sentiment. For teens of lesser means, pregnancy takes away much more than fun and glamour. It greatly reduces chances that the young mother will ever escape poverty.

For all the agreement about the problem, however, a failure to recognize facts appears to be interfering with finding solutions. The Bush administration is sticking adamantly to abstinence-only sex education, which was adopted at the urging of religious conservatives, even as evidence mounts that such programs are failing.
The article then swings into a statistical analysis of teen pregnancy rates "which declined 34% from 1991 to 2005, increased 3% in 2006."

As a PR guy, I know statistical manipulation when I see it, and this is gross and deliberate manipulation. Down 34% vs. up 3% seems to be a huge swing, until you recalculate the first figure to represent an annual fall, not a 14-year fall, and you find that the rate was dropping 2.4 percent annually over that period, on average.

Besides, a one-year change in a 14-year trend is inconclusive; more data is needed before we will know whether the 3% increase isn't an anomaly. Only the hysterical media would be interested in such a statistic.

Here's a comprehensive table that verifies the drop in teenage pregnancy rates, and shows that it impacted all demographic categories. It is astoundingly good news.

The table shows that from 2000 to 2004, the years of the first Bush term and the push for abstinence, the teen pregnancy rate has continued to drop, from 47.7 births per 1000 teenage girls in 2000 to 41.2 in 2004.

If abstinence education doesn't work, why was it working in these years? And why doesn't USA Today take into account that now 14 states are no longer teaching abstinence -- a new high which could, by itself, explain the increase?

Besides, a good argument can be made that abstinence education didn't become popular because of Christian morality; rather, it gained traction only because sex education had become extremely radicalized and pro-carnality in its teachings. By the end of the Clinton years, the pro-abortion Planned Parenthood faction controlled sex ed curricula and it showed in the classroom, where sex ed started with the assumption that all teens would have sex, and lots of it.

The media hasn't asked many questions about why Planned Parenthood and its ilk, which stood to gain from government-purchased birth control and government-funded abortions for teens, was allowed to turn sex education into a how-to guide for debauchery.

The carnal left had pushed too far and traditionally conservative America pushed back with the promotion of abstinence. Then, the left pushed back again with pressure to drop abstinence programs.

Through all this time, the Clinton free-for-all days and the more constrained Bush days, the teen pregnancy rate continued to drop, which to any clear-headed observer would appear to be proof that something other than classroom sex education was at work educating our young people. Incredible Daughter #1, who's 21, says television programming and social networking all play up the downside of teen pregnancy, and virtually no one gets pregnant today because they didn't understand the physical process.

All of which just goes to show that we can't count on left-leaning editorial writers to think through situations when blind promotion of their agendas will do.

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