- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 23, 2002

The D.C. government plans to spend more than $747 million in fiscal 2002 taking care of teenagers and their babies. That spending includes Medicaid, nutritional programs, housing and shelter, child welfare and the juvenile-justice system. It does not include funds spent by the Metropolitan Police Department, the primary agency charged with rounding up teens who break curfew, run away from home or hustle on the streets. Nor does it include money spent on special education, or dropout and other alternative-education programs. More importantly, while the District spends $747 million taking care of families started by teens, it spends less than 1 cent of every dollar on prevention. What's the message here for teens?

Teens know that, once they get into trouble, there are a host of social-service programs available just for them. But even they have sense enough to know there are not enough on the front end. "The message that we should send to teens is that each one is a tremendous and valuable part of this community," Brenda Rhoads Miller, executive director of the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, told this page the other day. "And, if we really believe that, then we've got to start making sure teens have the opportunity, the support and the experiences that will lead them to become healthy and productive adults."

How times have changed. Whereas older generations were more likely to marry and ostracize girls for having children without benefit yes, benefit of marriage, today, losing one's virginity is hip. And in the District, where the teen pregnancy rate is higher than in any state in this sex-crazed union, you might even say teens have begun to consider pregnancy as a rite of passage.

So, who is listening? Not the Williams administration, whose current and fiscal 2003 budgets have no local funds earmarked to prevent teen pregnancy. And certainly not D.C. Public Schools, whose sex-education curriculum is as woefully inadequate as its health-education curriculum if you can call them curriculums. To be sure, both the mayor and school officials know that the proof is in the research, which demonstrates that lower teen pregnancy rates keep welfare rolls down, reduce child poverty and other social ills, including school failure and substance abuse. In fact, they surely don't even need to see the research, because living, breathing proof is in every high school and clinic in the city. In other words, the District's liberal politics encourage teenage baby-making machines.

The goal of the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy is to shave pregnancy rates in half by 2005, and 2005 will be here before policymakers will admit that they must do more to preach and teach the frightening and costly consequences of sex. If they do that, they will find that abstinence isn't a bad word after all.


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