Abstinence-only sex education — long-championed by social conservatives — is reemerging as the preferred approach during the Trump administration, a political era in which there's increasing attention to the alleged past sexual activity of its leader.
Social conservatives at the Department of Health and Human Services say the current White House is more supportive of abstinence education than the Obama administration.
“We definitely are seeing a shift,” Kelly Marcum, a government affairs legislative assistant at the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobbying organization, told the Hill. “We’re really excited to see that the administration is giving some tools back to us to keep pushing that fight.”
In addition to allocating millions of dollars to programs that encourage teens to abstain from sex, groups seeking Title X federal family planning funds are being asked to place a “meaningful emphasis” on “the benefits of avoiding sex” in their sex education and to avoid programs that “normalize sexual risk behaviors.”
But data shows that teens are having sex less and that the teen pregnancy rate has declined, arguably in part because of the more comprehensive sex education programs of the Obama era.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this year that there’s been a decline in the share of high school students who reported having sex. The number was nearly half — 47 percent — in 2005. But in 2015, it had dropped to 41 percent.
Births among Hispanic and black teens have dropped by nearly half since 2006, according to the CDC.
And the most recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics reported that the teen birthrate in the United States is at a record low, dropping below 25 births per 1,000 teen females for the first time since the government began collecting consistent data on births to teens ages 15 to 19.
Perhaps support for abstinence-only education is in part rooted in what is happening in the communities of social conservatives. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said:
“When evangelical kids have sex, they’re less likely to use birth control — and that may be a reason (along with lower abortion rates) that red states have high teen birthrates.
Nine of the 10 states with the highest teen birthrates voted Republican in 2016. And nine of the 10 states with the lowest teen birthrates voted Democratic.”
According to Power to Decide, a nonprofit working to prevent unplanned pregnancy, the 10 states with the highest teen birthrates are: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, West Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee. President Trump won in all those states except New Mexico.
Despite the interest in teens' sex lives from some affiliated with socially conservative groups, others from those same organizations appear to have little concern about the sex life of the president they support.
After reports that Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen paid porn actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to prevent her from talking about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins recently told Politico that evangelicals were willing to give Trump a “do-over.”
“We kind of gave him — ‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,’ ” Perkins said in a Politico interview.
Robert Jeffress, who also is one of Trump’s most high-profile faith advisers, told Fox News:
“Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star. However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him.”
The socially conservative pastor, who initially declined to support GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 out of concerns about his Mormon faith, said Trump’s personal behavior isn’t an issue.
“Evangelicals knew they weren’t voting for an altar boy when they voted for Donald Trump,” he said. “We supported him because of his policies and his strong leadership.”
But to many, Trump has failed to be a strong leader when it comes to morals, especially sexual ethics. In addition to reports about his infidelity, nearly 20 women have accused the president of sexual misconduct.