A Republican lawmaker who promoted legislation to teach “abstinence-only” sex education in schools announced that his own unmarried high school-aged daughter has gotten pregnant.
Bill Cassidy, a state Senator from Louisiana released a statement to NOLA.com announcing that he was to be a grandfather and expressing his support for his daughter during this “challenging” time:
“Earlier this year, Laura and I learned we will become grandparents this summer. Our children have been the greatest blessing of our lives and we welcome our grandchild as a joyous addition to our family. Our daughter now faces a more challenging future than her peers. She has our unconditional love and support.”
Cassidy has made a name for himself as somewhat of a “abstinence-only” crusader. Last year, he co-sponsored the Abstinence-Only Reallocation Act, which would award grants and special funding to public and private schools which stuck to teaching only abstinence instead of a more comprehensive lesson plan on sexual behavior. The bill, authored by perennial bad ideas machine Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), has been tabled in Congress, but Louisiana teens aren’t in the clear.
Despite efforts by some legislators to address this problem, Louisiana is one of the leading abstinence-only promoters in the country. In roughly one-third of all schools in the state, students are taught exclusively abstinence. No safe sex. No birth control. Nothing but “Don’t do it.” And you know how good kids are at listening to adults when they tell them not to do something…
It might explain why Louisiana currently has the 6th highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. And while most of the country has been seeing major declines in teen births, Louisiana’s has hardly changed.
Now, it appears Cassidy’s own daughter contributes to those statistics.
Who could have seen this coming? Oh, right, the scientists who study teen sexual behavior:
States that prescribe abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools have significantly higher teenage pregnancy and birth rates than states with more comprehensive sex education programs, researchers from the University of Georgia have determined.
The researchers looked at teen pregnancy and birth data from 48 U.S. states to evaluate the effectiveness of those states’ approaches to sex education, as prescribed by local laws and policies.
“Our analysis adds to the overwhelming evidence indicating that abstinence-only education does not reduce teen pregnancy rates,” said Kathrin Stanger-Hall, assistant professor of plant biology and biological sciences in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. [source]
It’s great that the Cassidy family seems to be rallying behind their daughter, but another, better way to support her and thousands of other girls her age is to get real about the sexual practices of teens. Abstinence doesn’t work. It never has worked. It probably never will. Cassidy may not like the idea of his daughter learning about the birds and the bees, but pretending it doesn’t exist isn’t a solution. It’s sad.
Remarkably, Cassidy’s approach to sex (or lack thereof) coming back to haunt him puts him in good company within the Republican ranks. Sarah Palin, half-term Governor of Alaska and now full-time reality TV show star, dealt with a similar situation when her daughter, Bristol, became pregnant at 17. Later, in an interview about her pregnancy on CNN, Bristol admitted that teaching teens abstinence and avoiding the topic of birth control or safe sex is “not realistic at all.”
It will be interesting to see if Cassidy learns a similar lesson from his daughter’s experience. In the months leading up to finding out his daughter was pregnant, the congressman was a boisterous critic of Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate which requires that most (but not Hobby Lobby’s) insurance plans cover birth control for women.
Cassidy is currently fighting for his right to be the Republican challenger to one of Louisiana’s incumbent U.S. senators, Democrat Mary Landrieu. In an ironic twist, it appears that Obamacare (which Landrieu vocally supported) will be the central issue of the race. Cassidy has continued to rail against Obamacare in political ads, even in the days after announcing his daughter’s pregnancy. Whether voters will call him on his ludicrous abstinence-only position now that his daughter is a symbol of its inefficacy has yet to be determined.