On Monday, New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat complained that liberals misinterpreted news that teen pregnancies had risen in the Bush years, when abstinence-only education was promoted. If new research is to be believed, he was on the right track. The Washington Post reports a study showing abstinence-only education delays young teens' sexual activity, and doesn't ultimately discourage condom use. In fact, the abstinence-only education seemed to be more effective at delaying sexual activity than safe-sex programs.

While critics of the study say the abstinence program in question was highly unrepresentative--it avoided a moralistic tone and didn't dismiss condoms--a number of conservatives are taking the study as new ammunition.

  • Sex Ed Comes Second to Environmental Factors, argues Ross Douthat in his column, suggesting "neither blame nor credit" be given to the abstinence-only programs that liberals claim raised teen pregnancy rates under Bush. Nearly all sex education programs "have an ambiguous effect, at best ... What is taught in the classroom is vastly less important than the matrix of family, culture and economics." Yet liberals, he says, saw abstinence-only programs as "Bushism at its worst--contemptuous of experts, careless about public health and captive to religious conservatism."
  • Not Good News for Obama, points out blogger Dan Riehl. "He cut $170 million in funding for abstinence programs this year."
  • Newsflash: Science Isn't Always on Progressives' Side  Maggie Gallagher, duly noting officials' objections that "government policy should ideally not be based on one study, no matter how well-designed," suggests a "new minimum standard for government-backed social programs: not one dime unless you can show at least one random-assignment study that demonstrates effectiveness. Oops, there goes Head Start," she writes at the National Review. Liberals have too long tried to monopolize science, whose "standards ... are trotted out only to swat down policies that support sexually conservative ideas." While researchers are at it, she'd like to see an actual study done on childrearing in same-sex families, for example.