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 venereal disease. Most U.S. medical groups called for a return to comprehensive courses that protect teens.

In 2010, under President Barack 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.

Southern West Virginia has a pathetic rate of teen pregnancy — up to three times higher than the national average. The state has good sex education laws, requiring schools to protect youths by giving them effective birth control instruction. Some classes in rural schools, however, teach abstinence-only, in defiance of state law.

Helping teenagers 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.

— Charleston Gazette,

West Virginia, March 29

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