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Abstinence education still coming up short in Texas

Officials in Texas like to think their abstinence-education programs are working. Consider the latest evidence to the contrary.
A flag for the Texas Longhorns waves at the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
A flag for the Texas Longhorns waves at the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Rick Perry may have been Texas governor for 14 years, but for me, there's always been one brief exchange that summarized so much of his lengthy tenure.
In 2011, the Republican governor sat with Texas Tribune editor Evan Smith who passed along a question from the public. The voter wanted to know, "Why does Texas continue with abstinence education programs, when they don't seem to be working?" The question was well grounded in fact: in the areas of teen pregnancies and teen births, Texas ranked among the worst in the United States.
Perry heard the question, thought for a second, and replied, "Abstinence works."
The reporter pressed on, reminding the governor, "But we have the third-highest teen teen-pregnancy rate among all states in the country. The questioner's point is, it doesn't seem to be working." The governor responded, "It -- it works."
Four years later, the San Antonio Express-News is reporting on a striking number of cases of Chlamydia in a local high school, prompting school officials to organize a meeting "to discuss their sex education program."
Amanda Marcotte, a Texas native, explained the scope of the problem.

The area's repressive attitudes toward sex are illustrated in the school's sex education program, which takes up three days in the fall semester and, of course, is focused on abstinence. Raw Story reports that in 2012, the School Health Advisory Committee recommended a program titled Worth the Wait for that three-day course; the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States pointed out that Worth the Wait discourages condom use by suggesting they're just going to fail you anyway. The school district's superintendent, Jim T. Rumage, stands by his chlamydia-friendly strategy of telling kids to wait until marriage. "If kids are not having any sexual activity, they can't get this disease," he told the Express-News in a phone interview. That is true! Also true: If you never eat any food, you probably won't get cavities, and so there's no point in manufacturing toothbrushes.

At the state level, meanwhile, the Texas Tribune reported yesterday on the latest the Republican-run state government.

Health insurers would be prohibited from covering abortion in all cases save for medical emergencies under a bill the Texas Senate gave preliminary approval to on Tuesday. [...] Under SB 575, private health insurance plans and those offered through the federal Affordable Care Act's marketplace could only provide coverage for abortions in cases of medical emergencies. Women seeking coverage for what Taylor calls "elective" abortions would be required to purchase supplemental health insurance plans. Ten states now prohibit all health plans from covering abortion, and 15 prohibit abortion coverage on federal marketplace plans, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

I'm beginning to think Texas has more important things to worry about than martial law imposed after a U.S. military invasion.