April 21, 2007

Beyond Negligence: Bush and Abstinence-Based Programs

open book
Politicians who support a policy which has been discredited by scientific data of which they are unaware are acting negligently. Persons in their role should be aware of the relevant evidence and should use such evidence to evaluate their policies. In other words, they should know about the evidence which they do not know about. However, the situation is far more serious when policymakers know of the contradictory evidence and continue to endorse the discredited policy. This is more serious because they had the relevant evidence and intentionally ignored it. This is an insult to the people they represent.

Take the example of abstinence-based sexual education programs. Scientific data, collected at the request of the U.S. Congress, reveal that abstinence classes are ineffective. These programs are politically popular among conservatives seeking to pander to their socially conservative base, however, they have been repeatedly criticized by educators and scientists and wasting taxpayer dollars. This is not the first time the efficacy of abstinence programs has been challenged with empirical data. Quite clearly, these programs do not work.

The rational approach is to abandon these programs and reallocate funds to demonstrably effective programs. And yet, it appears that the Bush administration has no intention of doing this. Why? You see, they are convinced that abstinence programs must work and that science just hasn't demonstrated it yet. In other words, their faith leads them to ignore the reality-based information. Then again, maybe their newest approach will prove effective.

We have seen this again and again from the Bush administration (see The Republican War on Science). The evidence is clear. To ignore it goes far beyond negligence. The United States is among the top of Western nations in terms of our unwanted pregnancy rate. In large part, this is due to the opposition to birth control which is so pervasive among conservative Christians. Coupled with faith-based reliance on ineffective sex education programs, we ensure that this problem will persist.