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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Time to Abstain from Ineffective Teenage Pregnancy Education

It’s much like heroin for an addict. That’s the best way to describe federal money for state and local governments. They depend on it, and when it’s made available, they’ll go to great lengths to get it.

That’s why it was so encouraging to read recently that more and more states are now actually refusing federal money for “abstinence-only” sex education programs.

The reason is quite logical: Abstinence-only programs don’t work but sadly, it’s not often that logic wins out over dollars when it comes to government. This marks a rare and welcome exception.

Abstinence-only sex education was an idea crammed down everyone’s throat by the old Republican majority in Congress. If a state wanted federal money, the only way they could qualify was by teaching a program that wasn’t significantly reducing teen pregnancy.

Almost every study shows that to have any real impact, there has to be what’s called an “abstinence-plus” curriculum: teaching young people that abstinence is the safest and clearest path toward avoiding pregnancy but also teaching birth control and the proper use of contraceptives for the many who aren’t going to abstain.

Up until this year, only four states had taken a pass, but now at least 14 states have either notified the federal government that they will no longer be requesting the funds or are not expected to apply.

Texas isn’t on the list and that’s unfortunate given the fact we have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. Texas schools obviously need to be teaching young people everything they need to know to keep from getting pregnant, not withholding information for the sake of more federal dollars.

Interestingly, social conservatives have recently been caught on the horns of the dilemma they helped to create. In a popular new movie, “Juno,” a 16-year-old girl opts to have her baby rather than an abortion, and in real life, Jamie Lynn Spears, the 16-year-old star of Nickelodeon’s “Zoey 101,” has announced that she’s pregnant and plans to have the child.

While their anti-choice stance forces social conservatives to commend the Juno story line and the decision made by Spears, they can’t be too pleased by what all this says about the abstinence-only approach they’ve long advocated.

What this entire debate has long needed is a serious reality check. We can keep dancing around in Never-never Land and pretend that strong admonishments will somehow keep teenage hormones from raging or accept that will only happen in some utopian dreamland.

Of course we have to hope the abstinence arguments continue to register with more and more young people, but given that many will continue to ignore them, why not give them all the information they need?

In other words, if we all agree we need to reduce the number of abortions, shouldn’t we be doing everything possible to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies?

That just seems logical. Now that more and more states are proving that logic can sway the debate regarding federal sex education dollars, let’s hope that trend will continue in other ways as well.

(Originally published by Examiner Newspaper Group)

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