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May 9, 2006

Fear and Lying in Knoxville

"Numbers don't lie," writes Leslie Wylie in the cover story of the latest Metro Pulse, "Abstinence Ed., Are Your Tax Dollars Funding an Agenda of Fear?" To an extent, of course, she's correct; it's usually the words and context around the numbers that introduce falsehoods. Take, for example, some of the particular numbers with which Wylie follows her assertion:

The country's teen pregnancy rate is 84 pregnancies per 1,000 females ages 15 thru 19, a much higher rate than in any other developed country (twice as high as in England or Canada, and nine times higher than the Netherlands or Japan). Fifty-six percent result of these pregnancies result in birth; 30 percent result in abortion; and 14 percent result in miscarriage.

The error is in the "is": Her U.S. data is from the year 2000. Number-people will note that it is currently 2006. The international comparisons, meanwhile, if the Guttmacher Institute's relevant fact sheet is evidence, are from the "mid-1990s." Undeterred by matters of tense, Wylie allows Corrine Rovetti, director of the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health, to run with the stats:

As did the representatives from PPA [Planned Parenthood Association], Rovetti points to studies that have been done that disprove the effectiveness of abstinence-only education. "As a developed country, we still have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease," she says. "That's a travesty. It's frightening. I can't overemphasize enough what a dangerous approach the abstinence-only program is."

And it's the abstinence-only advocates who have "an agenda of fear"? Considering that the article emphasizes the federal funds allocated toward abstinence-until-marriage education by the Title V program — which wasn't implemented until 1997, the first of at least seven years in a row during which the proportion of high school students who had had sex at least once (PDF) was below 50% — it may be a bit premature to panic.

Via Instapundit.

Posted by Justin Katz at May 9, 2006 9:50 PM