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Sex education policies should appeal to reason

The sex education debate is back after an interview Tuesday with Bristol Palin, the 18-year-old daughter of social conservative and former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

The Alaskan governor has come under fire for supporting abstinence-only sex education while her daughter was unexpectedly pregnant.

“I am opposed to explicit sex education,” Sarah Palin said during her gubernatorial race in Alaska.

Though Sarah Palin made no admission of the ineffectiveness of sex education during a FOX News interview with Greta Van Susteren, Bristol Palin said “everyone should be abstinent or whatever, but it’s not realistic at all. (Sex) is more and more accepted now.”

While there’s no empirical data on the social acceptance of intercourse, there are statistics on the effectiveness of abstinence-only education.

A federally funded study by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. found that participants in abstinence-only education programs “had just as many sexual partners as nonparticipants and had sex at the same median age as nonparticipants.” In other words, the programs do nothing.

“I think Bristol is kind of an example — of, truly, it can happen to anybody,” Sarah Palin said in the FOX News interview.

Was the governor conceding that abstinence is not effective, and that other, better alternative methods should be considered first? Hardly.

Sarah Palin showed a severe lack of empathy and consideration for others’ circumstances when she suggested that in order to deal with an unintended pregnancy, the mother’s family should work together to help support her. This is, of course, the ideal situation. It is perfectly reasonable to expect the Palin family to support Bristol Palin both emotionally and financially.

“I don’t know how other families do it — if they kind of assume that the young parent is going to make it on their own, or assume that government will take care of the young parent and that child,” Sarah Palin said. “That’s not government’s role. This is a role for families.”

Unfortunately, not all mothers are as privileged as Bristol Palin, and the children of impoverished mothers should not be punished by their uncontrollable circumstances.

It should not be considered unreasonable for the government of an industrialized nation that spends hundreds of millions of dollars on its military each day to help support children born in unfortunate conditions. It is this kind of uncompassionate thinking that impedes potentially groundbreaking social reform.