Two decades ago, conservatives in Congress undercut comprehensive sex education, which teaches teens how to avoid pregnancy and venereal diseases, and instead poured taxpayer money into abstinence-only classes that advocate shunning sex until marriage.
Well over $1 billion was spent to preach abstinence -- and it didn't produce a dollar's worth of results. Study after study found that "just say no" teaching had no effect on adolescents -- except to harm them by keeping them ignorant of ways to prevent pregnancy and V.D. Most U.S. medical groups called for a return to comprehensive courses that protect teens.
In 2010, under President Obama, Congress ended two abstinence programs, saving taxpayers $112 million a year, but retained a third that grants up to $50 million annually to puritanical states wanting to keep teens sexless.
An obstetrician, Dr. Stephanie Sober, recently suggested that taxpayers should save the $50 million, rather than waste it on abstinence-only classes. She wrote:
"Despite a mountain of evidence demonstrating that abstinence-only programs are at best ineffective and at worst detrimental to the health and welfare of young people, the federal government has spent more than $1.5 billion on them since the early 1990s -- a sum that could pay the annual salaries of 30,000 schoolteachers."
In today's Washington, $50 million seems like a paltry sum -- just enough to cover a few minutes of military expense. But it's actually the complete income tax paid by perhaps thousands of Americans. Why waste it?
Southern West Virginia has a pathetic rate of teen pregnancy -- up to three times higher than the national average -- which often dooms both mothers and children to poverty and lost potential.
This state actually has good sex education laws, requiring schools to protect youths by giving them effective birth control instruction. But puritanical mountain taboos cause many rural schools to shun this obligation, like Dracula recoiling from a crucifix. In effect, some classes teach abstinence-only, even though state law requires comprehensive training.All teenage girls deserve the best future possible. Helping them avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases should be a solemn commitment. America should stop pushing futile abstinence-only training and instead teach teens how to protect themselves.