Reporters Question President Bush’s Pro-Abstinence Education Secretary

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 18, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Reporters Question President Bush’s Pro-Abstinence Education Secretary Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 18, 2004

Washington, DC ( — President Bush’s appointee to become the new director of the Department of Education is a strong proponent of abstinence-only education.

In a press conference Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan fielded questions from reporters who questioned the wisdom of appointing domestic policy advisor Margaret Spellings to be the new Secretary of Education.

They also dogged the president on his preference for abstinence-only education as opposed to teaching abstinence along with information about contraception.

"Is there something to be said for a program that also teaches contraception in case children were to fall off the abstinence wagon, they would know how to arm themselves," a reporter asked McClellan.

"I think if you looked at what we have pursued, we have said that funding for abstinence education at least ought to be on at least equal footing with other education programs," McClellan responded. "And so that’s what we’ve pursued in this administration."

But that wasn’t sufficient for one reporter who questioned Spellings because she "believes the message we should be sending to children in middle and high school is one of abstinence, and abstinence only."

"It’s something the President has long talked about, and it’s a — there are some efforts that are proven to work and send the right message to our children," McClellan said.

However, reporters wouldn’t back down.

"But if you try to reduce teenage pregnancies and everything else that the President is trying to reduce, is it not worthwhile to talk to children and teach them about contraception, in case in some occasion," asked one reporter who pressed McClellan.

"Well, there are programs there," McClellan said, referring to age-old contraception-based programs that have proven unsuccessful. "That’s why I said that funding ought to be at least on the same level as other programs."

After further questions, McClellan said the president’s position is one that focuses on a successful message that is the right one for teens.

"The President is an advocate of abstinence education programs because he wants to focus on what works. And we know that they have proven results of working to teach — send the right message to our children," the White House spokesman said.

Still, reporters dogged McClellan.

"Let me ask you more simply; what’s the problem of teaching abstinence and
contraception, just as a method of teaching these kids what’s available out there just in case," another reporter asked, repeating previous questions.

"I think we’ve answered this question; I think I’ve been through it. And the President’s views are very clear on it, as well," McClellan said.

Reporters asked the same question one more time, before the frustrated press secretary asked to move on.

In a statement, April Kurtz, a representative of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, applauded the president and his new pick.

"The Abstinence Clearinghouse thanks President Bush, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, and nominee Margaret Spelling for their strong stand on abstinence education," Kurtz said.