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Rick Perry Struggles To Answer Question About Sex Ed: 'Abstinence Works'

Rick Perry Abstinence

First Posted: 08/23/11 01:15 PM ET Updated: 10/24/11 06:12 AM ET

Last summer, Texas chose to pass on $4.4 million in federal funds aimed at sex education for adolescents in the state, The Texas Tribune reported.

But according to findings by the Guttmacher Institute, Texas is also the state with the highest teen birth rate and fourth-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. New Mexico tops the list with the highest teen pregnancy rate and follows Texas as the state with the second-highest teen birth rate in the U.S. Mississippi isn't far behind the two states, with the country's fifth highest teen pregnancy rate and third highest teen birth rate.

With that in mind, critics of the state's refusal of federal funds for sex ed were questioning why, according to 2009 findings by watchdog group Texas Freedom Network, over 96 percent of Texas school districts taught abstinence, but didn't include teachings of responsible pregnancy, safe sex or disease prevention.

The group's study also found, among other things, that "shaming and fear-based instruction are standard means of teaching students about sexuality," and some classrooms that do teach sex education incorporate religious instruction and Bible study.

HuffPost blogger Shawn Lawrence Otto also notes that teens in Texas who took part in abstinence-only programs were having more sex than before.

Comparing Texas' sex education stance to its most similar peer, New Mexico has a different perspective. A survey by the New Mexico Teen Pregnancy Coalition showed that 70 percent of New Mexico parents believe that "young people are going to explore their sexuality as a natural part of growing up and the best approach is to provide information and services to help them act responsibly." Just a quarter of those surveyed advocated abstinence until marriage.

In 2009, President Barack Obama called for an end to abstinence-only education and instead replacing it with a $110 million teen pregnancy prevention program. From the New Mexico Independent:

Abstinence-only programs simply don't work, [Sylvia Ruiz of the NMTPC] said. "So if this means communities will be able to access funding to implement evidence-based services, then this is a very good day for New Mexico."

Mississippi's teen pregnancies and births cost state taxpayers at least $135 million every year, the Clarion Ledger reports. The state adopted a policy in March that requires schools to have either an abstinence-only or abstinence-plus program -- abstinence-plus teaches abstinence in addition to contraception and disease prevention.

At least 17 of the state's schools have adopted abstinence-only programs, according to the Ledger, but some have dropped the curriculum after parents argued it wasn't medically accurate. Students and school officials tell the Ledger that abstinence-only programs aren't working in the state.

So why is it that almost all Texas school district still err on the side of abstinence-only education when it doesn't seem to produce results? The Tribune's Evan Smith asked Texas Gov. Rick Perry that very question last October, and the video's been making its rounds lately.

"Abstinence works... it is the best form to teach our children," Perry tells Smith.

Here's what else he had to say. What do you think?

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Filed by Emmeline Zhao  |