As a follow up to Courseconnections's comment the other day here about a correlation between the rise in teenage pregnancy and the Bush administration's support of abstinence-only education, here's Cynthia Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reminding us that the recent rise in teen births stands in stark contrast to more than a decade of decline:
[T]hat stunning drop was by no means mere coincidence. Activists and community volunteers who genuinely wanted to curb adolescent pregnancy — as opposed to those who just wanted to rail against abortion and inflict their rigid moral codes on others — worked hard to find programs that actually worked. They formed clubs for teen girls. They wrote scripts for role-playing, teaching teenagers how to say "no" to sex. (Those activists, too, believe in abstinence, but they're not naive about its utility.)
High school teachers assigned homework in which students spent a week caring for crying, fidgeting, diaper-wetting baby dolls, so adolescents would learn how difficult and demanding infants can be. They handed out contraceptives, including Depo-Provera, an injection that proved effective with teenaged girls who were unlikely to remember daily pills.
Through the 1990s, that overlapping network of programs was supported and partially funded by the Clinton White House, which believed in a pragmatic response to social problems. While President Clinton supported a woman's right to choose, he also said abortions should be "safe, legal and rare." The same pragmatism brought federal support for crime prevention efforts, including federal funds for hiring police officers.
By contrast, the Bush White House has turned back to a conservative ideology that mocks government as the source of problems — unless taxpayer funds can be used to further far-right objectives. So Depo-Provera is out, but abstinence pledges are in.
Maybe it's just coincidence that more adolescent girls are having babies. More likely, it's the inevitable result of a raft of foolish policies.
I'll say. A raft that sure don't float.