Ross Douthat Says New York "Solves" Its Teen Pregnancy Problem With Abortion

What Women Really Think
Sept. 24 2012 5:17 PM

Ross Douthat Says New York "Solves" Its Teen Pregnancy Problem With Abortion

Ross Douthat.
@DouthatNYT (aka Ross Douthat)

Photograph by Josh Haner/New York Times.

Ross Douthat of the New York Times took to Twitter this afternoon to denounce my post comparing teen birth rates in Mississippi and New York, and looking at the way sexual health outreach in public schools reflects the different cultures that give rise to those rates:

For a moment, I wondered if I had left a dangling participle in the post, but I soon learned that he was referring to the word that is first in his thoughts when he wakes in the morning and last when he goes to bed at night: abortion. (For those who wonder if the same is true about me, the words are actually "coffee" and "iPad" respectively.) It is true that I did not see fit to mention abortion in a post about the contraceptive amenities available through our public schools. While I'd love it if public schools would offer discreet, safe abortion services to students in need, I don't imagine that's going to happen in my lifetime, if ever.

But Douthat apparently believes I have misled you with the omission, and ascribes the whole of the difference in sexual health outcomes to the higher abortion rate in New York:

It is true that teenagers are much more likely to get an abortion in New York than Mississippi, in part because we have more abortion providers in a single borough of New York City than they have in the entire state of Mississippi. But the unwillingness of New Yorkers to force teenagers to give birth against their will just goes back to my original thesis, which is that better sexual health outcomes are about the culture at large, and can't be completely turned around by a quick fix like improved sex education in schools. I hate to quote myself, but:

These kinds of differences aren't just a matter of sex education, especially since some schools in New York have the same kind of poor in-class sex education as schools in Mississippi. Some differences can be chalked up to the cultural values kids learn in school, at home, and in the community at large. The sex education available is simply a reflection of these kinds of community values.

Mississippi ranks No. 3 nationally in syphilis,  No. 2 in chlamydia, and No. 1 in gonorrhea. That can't be written off as the result of noble Christians facing up to their duty to breed for God and country. Instead, a high teen birth rate and a high STD transmission rate in Mississippi are likely rooted in a cultural unwillingness to deal honestly with the fact that people are having sex, and that they need access to both prevent and to fix negative health outcomes that result from it. Better sex education and more clinics will help, but in the long run, what Mississippi needs most is to start believing that people's health and lives matter more than reinforcing hostile attitudes toward sexual choices people have already decided they're going to make.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Republicans Like Scott Walker Are Building Campaigns Around Problems That Don’t Exist

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

The World

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies

They’re just not ready to admit it yet.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 16 2014 4:08 PM More Than Scottish Pride Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 2:35 PM Germany’s Nationwide Ban on Uber Lasted All of Two Weeks
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 1:27 PM The Veronica Mars Spinoff Is Just Amusing Enough to Keep Me Watching
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 1:39 PM The Case of the Missing Cerebellum How did a Chinese woman live 24 years missing part of her brain?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.