- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002

On Thursday, the Republican-controlled House passed its version of the welfare-reform reauthorization bill on a 229-197 vote that closely marked party lines. Anyone who has paid a measurable amount of attention to the welfare-reform debate, which began taking shape during the first Clinton administration, knows there is nothing startling in the bill. Yet, as usual, liberals are proving themselves mighty contentious and ridiculous to boot.

There is not enough money for day-care subsidies, they contend. However, working moms and dads argue that the fundamental problem with day care is that operating hours for day care centers have not changed with the times. Democrats also complain that the House bill will let governors play Russian roulette with other entitlements for the poor. That complaint is primarily targeted at a practical provision that will allow some states to drop out of the food-stamp program and, instead, avail themselves of block grants for nutrition subsidies.

One Republican-backed proposal that has drawn unfair ridicule, though, is the sex-education provision. That measure, which is about as straightforward as sex-education programs come, offers states $50 million a year to teach abstinence-only as the way to avoid not merely pregnancy but promiscuity, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and the ever-deadly AIDS. Reasonable parents and grandparents welcome such a policy. After all, there are no suppositions with abstinence. As President Bush said recently, "It works every time."

Yet, to hear the rantings of liberals like Richard Cohen of The Washington Post, one could easily believe that he and his like-minded, obstinate buddies can't stand the thought of a girl (or boy) just saying no. "The [abstinence-only] program persists despite no evidence that it works and in the face of some evidence that it does not." He goes on to characterize "chastity until marriage" as "sanctimonious nonsense," and suggests that promoting chasteness is a "totalitarian concept" that amounts, "truly, to abuse of power."

To the contrary, some sex-ed programs intended to reduce teen promiscuity have actually created the opposite results. For example, according to AIDS Virus Education and Research Trust, or AVERT, which is based in England, one high school program in California called Reducing the Risk resulted in a greater proportion of students remaining abstinent, while a program targeting black teens in Atlanta promotes promiscuity by increasing "contraceptive use among sexually experienced females."

Indeed, parents know that the more options and leeway teens are granted, the more risks they take. And, to be sure, there remains plenty of tax dollars to throw around on safe-ed ideologies and condom giveaways. The fact remains, though, that abstinence is the only sure-fire way to go. It is hoped that the Democrat-controlled Senate factors in as much when it takes up its version of legislation reauthorizing welfare reform.

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