by Max Brantley
Count on Rep. John Boozman. Abstinence-only sex education doesn't work. It might even be counter-productive in terms of teen pregnancy. So Boozman wants to keep pouring the coals (in the form of federal tax dollars) to this discredited scheme for shipping tax money to fundies. Release on the jump.
He plays fast and loose with facts. I don't doubt that 80 percent of parents would prefer that absintence be emphasized over birth control and that most parents wish their kids would wait until marriage to have sex, even if few of them did. But I don't believe the research shows that many parents want their kids' eyes and ears covered when the subject of birth control comes up. That's the big difference. Good sex education courses DO teach abstinence. Also use of condoms and pills.
Here, for example, is just one of the polls that obliterates Boozman's misstatement about public opinion polling. A majority in this poll favor comprehensive sex ed over the abstinence-only approach.
UPDATE: A little more research turns up interesting info. The Zogby "poll" that Boozman cites isn't really a valid public opinion poll, but message-testing research from foes of sex education and apparently created by the folks who brought us the Swift Boat ads. The questions are shaped to produce desired results and thus reveal the best tactics for achieving those results. Respondents are not ever asked whether they support ONLY abstinence-only education. They are offered some emotional hot-button situations. This is a fair political strategy, to test messages. But the results shouldn't be misrepresented by Boozman -- and the other right-wingers currently parroting them -- as scientific public opinion research. Here's a good analysis, which rounds up a number of legitimate polls on the question as well as exposing the faulty methodology and Zogby's VERY careful response to questions about the use of the poll numbers by opponents of sex ed.
REPUBLICAN PARTY NEWS RELEASE
WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative John Boozman (R-AR) today called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House Democrat leadership, to not let funding of abstinence-only education expire at the end of June.
Boozman, a member of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, signed on to a letter from Members to Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, calling for the reauthorization of the $50 million-a-year Title V Abstinence Education Program.
Reports have stated that Democrat leaders do not plan to expand the program, and plan to wipe away another $110 million discretionary-spending abstinence program.
Under Title V, states must teach that abstinence is the only sure way to avoid extramarital pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and related health problems and abstinence is the expected standard for unmarried schoolchildren.
“Nearly 80 percent (Zogby, May 2007 ) of Americans think sex education should promote abstinence over contraception, and 83% of parents think their children should wait to have sex until marriage. Clearly, there is a disconnect between the Democrat leadership and the wants of American mothers and fathers on this issue,” Boozman said. “By letting abstinence education funding expire, Speaker Pelosi will be choosing to place her wishes ahead of the wishes of parents, and send a message to mothers and fathers everywhere: we don’t trust you on this one, so we’ll choose for you what sex-education lessons your child will be taught.”
“My message to Speaker Pelosi: Do not kill abstinence education. I call on the Speaker to tell her leadership team that the American people want this program, and it should be fully-funded,” Boozman said.