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Why Are We Still Funding Abstinence-Only Sex Ed?

With its absence from the president's budget, you might have thought "Just Say No" sex ed was dead -- but the health-care bill gave it new life.

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In the end, by including $250 million for abstinence-only sex education in the health-care bill, the federal government is promoting a public health intervention that has been proven to be ineffective at best. Abstinence-only sex education is a serious disservice to our young people. It leaves them terribly conflicted and dangerously uninformed about how to prevent pregnancy and STDs. With a well-designed comprehensive curriculum kids can be taught about the very real benefits of delaying sexual activity and given support in their efforts to "Just Say No." But if they do choose to have sex -- as many teens eventually do -- they need accurate and practical information about condoms and other contraceptives to avoid pregnancy and disease. Withholding this kind of information from teens is coercive and ineffectual. It's time to face reality and stop wasting any more money on interventions that clearly don't work.

Naomi Freundlich is a patient advocate at the Century Foundation who writes regularly for HealthBeat.