09 February 2010

Abstinence from Federal Sex-Ed Funding?

And the sex-ed debate continues…

Enter Ross Douthat, a relatively new conservative columnist for the New York Times:

Amidst the release of data revealing a rise in teen pregnancy during Bush’s abstinence-only reign, and a report hailing a (quite different) abstinence-only approach, Douthat has made a totally irresponsible argument against federal funding for any sexuality education -- abstinence-only or not. He doesn't quite claim (though, he almost does) that the debate over “abstinence-versus-contraception” is “pointless,” but says we should “understand it more as a battle over community values than as an argument about public policy.” (What about the value of responsible public health policy?) Apparently he thinks parents should take on the responsibility of imparting their own values to their own children, and that, as is typical of his political stripe, big government should stay out of it. But how many times has this argument been debunked? And how many kids have parents who can provide them with the information they need to make healthy decisions about their sexuality?

Douthat then goes down the ill-fated cultural-relativism path, claiming that we shouldn’t “encourage Berkeley values in Alabama, or vice versa.” Are not all children created equal? Isn’t every child in the U.S., regardless of geography, just as deserving of information that could help her/him lead a productive, successful and healthy life?

Certainly, there is a strong argument to be made for ensuring that states and communities have the resources and power to implement and enforce comprehensive, medically-accurate sexual health standards and curriculum – a focus of the Ms. Foundation’s funding of sexual health advocates across the U.S. But this is not what Douthat is suggesting, and the need for locally oriented support does not negate the importance of federal funding and responsible federal public health policy. We all -- one would hope -- share the value that our youth are our country’s greatest resource and hope. Why would we leave their fate to geographic or familial circumstance or chance?

Read related post: Sex-Ed Debate Picks Up: Teen Pregnancy Climbs, Abstinence Advocates Mistake New Study as Proof

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