Barack Obama, when asked about the recent news regarding Sarah Palin's daughter, argued that family should be of limits in political campaigns, and that his own mother was only 18 years old when Barack was born. So I will try to accept Barack's advice and get out of politics for a moment. Let's talk about the issue of teen pregnancy, then, irrespective of who is running for president.
NPR reporter Mara Lyason (spelling?) said this morning that the news item cited above is not causing the Republicans at the convention any heartburn because many of them know or have heard of pregnant teen girls. I said to myself, gee, that's odd, because most of them support abstinence-only education. Could it be that abstinence only education is not particulaly effective?
Think about the process of getting your kids ready to be drivers. There was an education process. You did not say "you are not ready for that, wait until you are twenty years old" and refuse to get them a learner's permit. No, you taught them how to drive. Among other things, you probably stressed the importance of seat belts. You did not say "don't bother wearing a seat belt, because sometimes they don't save your life if the crash is bad enough." No, you probably did not say that. Did you say "Just because you are wearing a seat belt and have an air bag, that is no reason to speed and crash your car?" Yes, you might have said that, and that would be okay.
Compare this to abstinence only education, and you you may figure out that it is not the best approach to take with your kids. Consider the approach of presenting your children (both male and female, let's be fair) with the advice of "condoms do exist, and when used do prevent pregnancies, abortions, and the marriages of people who are too young to be married. But I still think that you are too young for the responsibilities and potential heartaches of sexuality, so I would urge you to wait." Oh no, that's too nuanced, the messages are too mixed? On the other hand, maybe if you treat your child like an adult and admit that life is complex, it might just encourage them to develop an adult ability to practice patience and caution.
I feel uncomfortable with abstinence only as an educational tool, and I also feel uncomfortable with the attitudes that appear to accompany it in my experience. I know conservative Christians who see sex before the fact as black and white, then after the fact, suddenly everything is fine and all is forgiven even if it involves adultery. Well, you can argue that there is no point being judgemental after the damage is done, and that is true, so perhaps I should not even go there. Let's stick with the question of preventing teen pregnancy. The rates dropped slightly in recent years, then rose slightly recently. We had the sex education folks and the abstinence folks arguing feverishly about who deserves the credit and blame. From where I stand, I don't think it's the abstinence argument that is doing it.