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Smart Bombs: Taking the pledge

Taking the pledge

The teen birth rate is up slightly for the second year in a row, which reverses a 14-year decline. This has triggered the usual arguments over abstinence-only sex education vs. the more comprehensive version it replaced.

The thinking with abstinence-only is this: Tell teens about sex and they’ll have sex. Tell them about contraceptives and they’ll have even more sex. So have them sign a pledge to abstain.

Well, that hasn’t gone so well.

Research shows that virginity pledges don’t slow sexual activity. And after a “results not demonstrated” determination from the Office of Management and Budget, the Bush administration still increased funding for a just-say-no program in 2005. No changes have been made since.

When “abstinence” hooks up with obstinance the result is more teenage mothers.

Infomaniacs. The U.S. teen pregnancy rate is five times higher than that of the Netherlands, four times that of Germany and three times that of France, according to the Advocates for Youth Web site.

How do those countries do it? Well, they start by acknowledging that teenagers will do it. That’s the step that hangs up many Americans.

Once that’s accepted, then it’s on to accurate information, access to contraception and the respectful treatment of teens.

Depends on the meaning of “tax.” The wildly popular bill to tax away the bonuses of American International Group executives forced the nation’s leading anti-tax group into a corner. Americans for Tax Reform, run by Grover Norquist, is a powerful group that calls on politicians to sign pledges to oppose all new taxes and tax increases. Sign it and you won’t face the Grovernator’s wrath in the next election.

A total of 172 members of the U.S. House and 35 U.S. senators, mostly Republicans, have signed, including U.S. House members Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Doc Hastings of Washington and Mike Simpson of Idaho.

At first, Norquist said a vote for the bill would break the pledge. But with the prospect of 207 of his favored politicians on the wrong side of public opinion, Norquist caved, and many Republicans voted for the tax. Simpson and Hastings still voted no, but McMorris Rodgers voted yes.

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Wednesdays and Sundays on the Opinion page. Crooks can be reached at or at (509) 459-5026.

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