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Monday, March 26, 2007

Rightwing Cincinnati Enquirer: Now Bashing Gov. Strickland Over Banishing Abstinence-Only But . . .

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The Cincinnati Enquirer openly pandered to social conservatives today with a lead editorial that denounced Ohio's Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland. His sin: eliminating state funding for so-called abstinence-only programs. Without citing specific evidence, the editorial contends the programs have played a role in curtailing teen pregnancies. The newspaper says the governor was wrong to make the $500,000-a-year cut and demands he change course. It was long on Dem-bashing huffery and puffery, but short on proving Strickland was incorrect.

This is how the editorial starts: "Gov. Ted Strickland needs to reconsider killing funding for abstinence-only education -- ending eight years of support for the program in Ohio public schools."

Next sentence "Whether abstinence education is effective depends on whom you believe. But Ohio rates of teen pregnancy have dropped dramatically in recent years. And totally eliminating funds for the abstinence education without offering up an alternative seems reckless at best."

And this is where it really gets mean: "Yet Strickland claims he doesn't know whether the program works. Perhaps he ignores all the studies that show positive residual results from abstinence education, including a higher self-esteem in youth, lower rates of illegal drug use and the emotional stability that comes from abstinence."

But here's the big hole in its argument. The number of children having children has been falling dramatically throughout the United States -- not just Ohio -- for 27 years. And the decline predates eight years of state funded abstinence-only spending in Ohio schools. The latest National Vital Statistics report (Vol. 55, No. 1. September 29, 2006) published by the Centers for Disease Control reports births by American teens is nearly as low as 1950, when the entire U.S. population was around 185 million. Today there are more than 300 million Americans -- and far more teens in the population as a whole.

"Overall since 1991, the rate for teenagers 15-17 years fell 43%, whereas the rate for older teenagers declined 26%. Births to 15-17 year olds fell to 133,980, the fewest in more than half a century (126,941) . . .

And there is less sex.

"According to the 2002 NSFG (National Survey for Family Growth) the proportions of young teenage males and females (ages 15-17 years) who had ever had sexual intercourse declined significantly in comparison with the 1995 NSFG and the 1995 National Survey of Adolescent Males. There were also declines for males 18-19 years." (Note, the national decline was well under way in 2002, long before abstinence-only programs in Ohio's schools).

And there is more on the CDC portal, including research from an organization, Advocates for Youth, that did a study about science-based practices to curb teen pregnancy and prevent HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

"An exhaustive literature review identified over 160 evaluations of programs. Nineteen were selected for inclusion in this report. None of the effective programs was abstinence-only."

The Enquirer wanted to slam the governor because he is a Democrat, not because he is wrong. It did not want him in office in the first place. It supported Republican Ken Blackwell, a Cincinnatian who is an abstinence-only booster, and it won't let go.

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