Despite claims that abstinence education is a waste of taxpayer dollars, a new report suggests that the nation’s capital — where several such programs thrive — is living proof of its effectiveness. In the most dramatic decline yet, city officials have announced that D.C.’s teen pregnancy and birth rates have dropped to unprecedented lows. In an area that boasts some of the nation’s most diverse populations, the message of delaying sexual activity has cut across cultural lines and succeeded in slashing teen pregnancies and births by more than half since the late 1990’s. For a city whose teenage (15-19) pregnancy rate in 1996 was 164.5 per 1,000, the current contrast is stark. Research shows that the region’s pregnancy rate now stands at 64.4 per 1,000 — a 100 point drop.
Although many are quick to credit contraception, they fail to see the importance of the District’s most famous occupants. For seven years, the President and Mrs. Bush have stressed risk avoidance over risk reduction, and it’s no accident that their commitment is finally bearing statistical fruit. Contrary to a recent article by columnist George Will, the same is true of the commander-in-chief’s influence in the war on the unborn. In “Abortion’s ‘So-What’ Factor,” Will argues that a future president’s position on life is all but irrelevant to the ongoing abortion debate. Convinced that not even pro-life replacements on the Supreme Court would affect Roe v. Wade, Will writes, “But suppose [they] did. Again, so what? All it would do is restore abortion as a practice subject to state regulation… But regarding abortion itself, what a candidate thinks about [it] is not especially important.” I beg to differ. The President’s principles dictate his policy — and that policy can determine progress on everything from marriage to the unborn.