We Fact-Checked the Science Behind the Republican Party Platform

Electromagnetic pulse attacks

Electromagnetic Pulses

(Image credit: argus | Shutterstock.com)

RNC platform: "A single nuclear weapon detonated at high altitude over this country would collapse our electrical grid and other critical infrastructures and endanger the lives of millions … Hundreds of electrical utilities in the United States have not acted to protect themselves from EMP, and they cannot be expected to do so voluntarily since homeland security is a government responsibility."

The science: Security experts are split on whether weaponized electromagnetic pulses, or EMPs, from hostile foreign powers are actually a legitimate threat.

If a rogue state such as North Korea were to detonate a nuclear weapon in the ionosphere, a region of the atmosphere filled with electrons and charged particles, it could release waves of atmospheric radiation that could span the continent. When the EMPs hit the ground, they could send huge pulses of electricity coursing through electrical wires and cables, shorting out transformers and decimating the electrical grid.

However, to launch such an attack would be suicide for any country involved, because American submarines could launch their own retaliatory nuclear missiles quickly, and they would not be affected by the EMPs, the Commission to Assess the Threat to the U.S. from EMP Attack said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in July 2008. In addition, any nuclear weapon that could create an EMP would have to somehow be deployed to the atmosphere above the center of the country without being detected, the commission noted.



(Image credit: Boas73 | Shutterstock.com)

RNC platform: "Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions."

The science: Experts argue that research provides a mixed report on how pornography impacts society, with some studies indicating that pornography exposure has little to no effect on people. And scientists have found that some countries' rates of sexual violence decreased after pornography had been decriminalized and became more widely available, according to studies conducted by Milton Diamond, director of the Pacific Center for Sex and Society at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

On July 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote in a statement that the "CDC does not have an established position on pornography as a public health issue. Pornography can be connected to other public health issues like sexual violence and occupational HIV transmission," CNN reported.

Married mothers and fathers

marriage, monogamy

Are people meant to be monogamous or is it an outdated societal expectation? (Image credit: Marriage image via Shutterstock)

RNC platform: "The data and the facts lead to an inescapable conclusion: Every child deserves a married mom and dad. The reality remains that millions of American families do not have the advantages that come with that structure."

The science: The Republican platform opposes both single parenting and gay marriage, and implies that the party would like to see a repeal of the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, a 2015 decision that legalized same-sex marriage across the land.

Decades' worth of studies suggests that children from two-parent households tend to fare better on a raft of outcomes, from educational attainment to mental health to criminal behavior, than those with single parents. For instance, a 2010 study found that bullies were more likely to come from single-parent households, and a 2014 study in the journal BMJ Open found that children of divorce were likelier to be obese or overweight. However, studies have had difficulty teasing out what's behind this trend, whether it's the marital structure of the family, the conflict that preceded a divorce or prevented parents from getting married in the first place, or the financial hardships associated with single parenting that makes the most difference. For instance, one 2015 study found that money, rather than marital status, makes parents better.

Because gay people represent a relatively small fraction of the population, and gay parents an even smaller fraction, large studies on gay parents are scarce. However, much of the evidence suggests that gay couples may be as good, if not better, than straight parents. A 2010 review found no differences in mental health, school performance or social performance for children raised by two gay parents, rather than by a heterosexual couple.

Other researchers, in a 2015 study in Social Science Research, found little to no difference between children being raised by two gay or two straight parents.

Same-sex couples are also more likely than heterosexual couples to build their families through adoption, something the Republican platform supports. Gay parents often take in the neediest children – over half of children adopted to gay parents had special needs, while a quarter were older than 3, a particularly hard age to "place," according to a 2011 study by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Agency.

Abstinence-only sexual education

Sex Ed on a blackboard

Sex education can delay teen sex, a new study finds. (Image credit: bbbar, Shutterstock)

RNC platform: "We renew our call for replacing 'family planning' programs for teens with sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior."

The science: Many studies suggest that abstinence-only sex education is not effective at preventing teen sex. A 2008 study found that teens who received abstinence-only sex education were just as likely to engage in intercourse, and become pregnant in their teens, as those who didn't receive any sex education.

On the other hand, those who received comprehensive sex education, which includes information about effective birth control, were less likely to become pregnant, the study found.

And the idea that teaching teens about safe sex will encourage them to have sex seems to be a myth. A 2012 study found that teens who received any type of sex education waited longer to have sex than those who didn't receive any sex education. Those who received sex education were also more likely to use contraception when they did become sexually active.

That study couldn't precisely tease out the differences between abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education, but found some evidence that young women who received information about birth control were more likely to use condoms during their first intercourse than those who received abstinence-only sex education.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that "abstinence-only programs have not demonstrated successful outcomes with regard to delayed initiation of sexual activity or use of safer sex practices." Instead, "Effective programs tend to provide practical skills, such as exercising control and increasing communication and negotiation skills through role-playing," the AAP says.

Programs that encourage abstinence as the best option, but also discuss prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and the use of contraception, have been shown to delay the start of sex and increase use of birth control among those who do become sexually active, the AAP says.

Live Science Staff
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