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Minnesota’s young people will pay the steepest price for Pawlenty’s irresponsible sex-ed decisions

The Personal Responsibility Education Program, created through the recently enacted federal health care reform law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), provides individual states with grants for comprehensive sex education.

PREP is designed to provide young people with information that a vast majority of parents want their kids to receive. Its programs must include information on both abstinence and contraception. It also provides information on healthy relationships, positive self-esteem, adolescent growth and body image. Its holistic approach gives young people a broad range of healthy life skills, such as goal setting, decision making, negotiation and stress management.

All at no cost to the states! Sounds good, right? Not to Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

He’s decided to turn this program away in favor of failed abstinence-only policy, for which the state of Minnesota will shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the face of a $6 billion state budget shortfall for the next biennium, it is utterly irresponsible and illogical to turn away nearly $1 million in federal funding for services that are desperately needed and wanted by our community.

‘Poor fiscal and public health policy’
Abstinence-only programs have been sharply criticized by scores of established and respected medical organizations. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies has called for the termination of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs because they represent “poor fiscal and public health policy.”

Likewise, the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Society of Adolescent Medicine, and American Psychological Association have all raised serious and persistent ethical concerns about the support for such programs.

In its policy statement on abstinence-only programs, the American Public Health Association states: “While good patient care is built upon notions of informed consent and free choice, [abstinence-only] programs are inherently coercive by withholding information needed to make informed choices.” 

Those with accurate information have better outcomes
Young people have a right to accurate, complete information to help them postpone sexual activity and protect themselves when they become sexually active. Data conclusively show that those who get medically accurate information about sex, along with information about contraception, are more likely to delay intercourse than those who receive abstinence-only messages; they also are more likely to use contraception if and when they do become sexually active. Research has repeatedly found that teens who report that they received comprehensive sex education are 50 percent less likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy.

Gov. Pawlenty needs to face facts: Nearly half of all Minnesota teens are sexually active by their senior year of high school. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, there were more than 75,000 teen births in Minnesota between 1991 and 2004, costing taxpayers an estimated $2.3 billion.

It isn’t fiscally sound or morally responsible to deny young people the information they need to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of infections that can lead to infertility, chronic illness and even death. Sadly, the steepest price for Gov. Pawlenty’s political gamesmanship will be paid by Minnesota’s young people.

Sarah Stoesz is the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/01/2010 - 08:44 am.

    “All at no cost to the states! Sounds good, right?”

    No, not so much. In fact, it sounds incredibly naive and self serving.

    Perhaps Ms. Stoesz isn’t aware of how our monetary system works, but when it’s not borrowing Chinese Yuan, as is the case currently, the federal government gets the money it sends to the states from the people of the states.

    I’m sorry to say, there is no tooth fairy and there is no magic money tree in the White House garden, either.

    The federal government has, as of today, put $13.4 Trillion dollars on our credit cards, yours, mine, our kids. That’s bad, but what is worse is it seems there is no thought to even slowing the borrowing much less stopping it.

    And worse yet, there is evidently a group of people in Washington whose job it is to come up with new and creative ways to spend money we do not have.

    While people are being put out of their homes at an unprecedented rate, I’m sorry to say that Ms. Stoesz’s organization might have to charge a bit more for its infanticide services if it wishes to expand its activities.

    Right now, the country is struggling to meet the challenge of keeping the lights on.

  2. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/01/2010 - 12:42 pm.

    How is borrowing “Chinese Yuan”, suddenly a big concern? Is this something that occurred just recently Tom? The Chinese ATM has been open for many years. As a matter of fact, the Yuan has financed two of our most recent military adventures totaling nearly 1 trillion dollars. Long term, those pesky incursions will total upwards of 3 trillion dollars.

    Mr. Swift sounds as if he had a theory, and then supported it with selected observations, ignoring the bigger picture.

    We all like to hear stories that confirm our beliefs, that’s why people go to church, watch certain TV channels. Good article, doing the homework Mr. Swift neglected to do, or ignored since it didn’t support his view.

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/01/2010 - 02:40 pm.

    So, Richard’s opinion is that since we’ve been digging ourselves a crater, there’s no reason not to continue to do so…

    Super.

    The catch is that despite the Democrat tendency to deny it, and the Republican tendency to ignore it, the fact is that there *is* actually a bottom to this country’s credit limit, and our biggest lender, China, has already started to express it’s discomfort with our balance sheet.

    It’s reasonable to question T-Paw’s motivation for refusing to accept Minnesota’s top skim off the Democrat yuan pile, but it cannot be disputed that a million not spent is a million not owed.

  4. Submitted by Michael Friedman on 09/01/2010 - 03:17 pm.

    Why won’t Swift criticize Pawlenty for using tax money we can’t afford– federal AND state — on sex education?

    Why won’t Swift especially criticize Pawlenty for using tax money that — unlike the Prep grant — has no value even if we could afford it?

    Why won’t Swift admit that Bush and Reagan have been the biggest deficit spenders (foreign borrowers) of them all?

    Because he has no consistent point of view, only a party-driven purpose no different than a paid PR functionary.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/01/2010 - 04:47 pm.

    “Minnesota’s young people will pay the steepest price for Pawlenty’s irresponsible sex-ed decisions.”

    Yep. The only thing that’s preventing today’s young people from behaving as barnyard animals is government money.

  6. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 09/01/2010 - 08:35 pm.

    Great article!

    To re-iterate, it appears that taking federal funds – that require a state match – is apparently ok as long as the failed “abstinence only” doctrine is to be preached.

    On the other hand Mr. Pawlenty (and not coincidentally Mr. Swift) think that accepting money – that does NOT require a state match – is not OK because it involves comprehensive sex education.

    I’ll also note that we do pay Federal taxes and so we – as a state – are as entitled to these funds as much as people in any other state. Perhaps Mr. Swift and his friends should move to the Fifth District and support the secession movement there?

    From City Pages (April 13, 2010):

    A peculiar strain of crazy apparently took over the Republicans’ fifth congressional district nominating convention on Saturday. The local members of the party of Lincoln passed a secession resolution on a voice vote:

    “Be it resolved the Republican Party of Minnesota supports nullification of unconstitutional federal laws and secession as options to enforce state sovereignty.”

    Finally, Mr. Swift demonstrates his lack of understanding of the Rowe v. Wade case and its constitutional basis by referring to infanticide. This is just another example Mr. Swift’s rope-a-dope technique.

  7. Submitted by Kevin Whalen on 09/01/2010 - 10:20 pm.

    Two things for Mr. Swift.

    First, and this is most important, household economies and state economies function differently. If you spend less and save more at the Swift house, that’s great. Good for you. If our government spends less in the midst of this crushing depression, the economy continues it’s downward spiral and then maybe the Swifts lose their jobs and then they can’t save a dime even if they want to. You don’t have to like Mr. Keynes– just look at the last twenty years of stagflation in Japan.

    Second, think of sex education as an investment/return scenario. More sex ed= fewer teen mothers=fewer impoverished families=less state spending on the social side (I know how much you probably love to complain about welfare!). Besides, I bet a neoliberal whiz like you is probably good at investments, anyways.

    Welp, see ya later!

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