Is Bristol Palin Wiser Than Her Former Running Mate Mother?

February 20, 2009 | | Comments Off on Is Bristol Palin Wiser Than Her Former Running Mate Mother?

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In a recent Fox News interview , Bristol Palin, daughter of former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sara Palin, told viewers about her new life as an unwed teenage mother.

“Like, your whole priorities change after having a baby,” she said, holding her newborn son, Tripp, in her arms.  Palin argued that telling teenagers to be abstinent is “not realistic at all.”

This is quite a different stance from that taken by her politician mother who supports abstinence only education despite its known shortcomings.  For starters, the effectiveness of abstinence is deeply questionable.  Teen pregnancy rates continue to be substantial while the rates of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV rise at alarming rates.  Second, abstinence only education for teenagers is extremely misguided.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 54% of high school students claimed to never have had sex.  This means that roughly half of all high school students are or have been sexually active at some point.  The government’s efforts would be more effective to focus its attention away from teens who have made up their minds to remain chaste.  Why, you ask?

Avoiding accurate discussions about contraception and prevention is pointless, especially when many teenagers decide to engage in risky sexual behavior.  Furthermore, since federal funding can only go to school programs that take the abstinence only approach, these teens are frequently left uneducated and unprepared about the realities of today: that young people make up the bulk of new HIV and STD cases.  Still, legislators continue to waste taxpayer dollars on programs that have proven to be ineffective, spending more than one billion dollars within the last ten years.  In additional to myself, the abstinence only approach has its share of critics.

Congressman Henry Waxman conducted an extensive congressional report to find out more about the country’s abstinence only programs and its findings were at the heart of much of the programs’ criticism: widespread inaccuracy.  The study found that these programs deprive teens of the correct information they need when making choices about sexual behavior.  It found widespread misrepresentations in the failure rate of contraceptives in preventing pregnancy, how effective the use of condoms are in preventing HIV, stereotypes about gender roles as being scientific fact, and the negative affect on young women seeking abortions.  The American Medical Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and other nationally reputable medical organizations criticize abstinence only education as well.  They all believe that a comprehensive education program is necessary, not the current program which leaves out critical information.  Other groups find that the risky sexual behavior that leads to the transmission of diseases and teen pregnancy is not decreased by such programs.
Abstinence only education also has a negative affect internationally.

While many developing countries have more comprehensive sex education programs on a limited scale, former President George W. Bush doled out $15 billion over the next five years to curb HIV/AIDS in Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia.  Nonetheless, a mere 20% of the total aid was allowed to educate about prevention measures.  The majority of the remainder of the funding went to abstinence only and fidelity encouragement programs.  This money would miss out on a major cause of the spread of HIV in many developing countries: a lack of medication for pregnant women to prevent infection of their newborn babies.

Domestically, better sex education seems like it would also yield positive results in many areas.  From a decrease in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases to lower amount of taxpayer dollars spent on welfare and federally subsidized abortions, it appears that an improved sex education system would only make things better.  Isn’t a healthier, more educated population best for everyone anyways?

Bristol Palin would probably agree.

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