The best abstinence program

When it comes to government spending money on anti-teen pregnancy program, the best advice is to abstain, writes Cato’s Kimble Ainslie. The federal government’s already spending $50 million a year on abstinence programs, and Dubya wants to tack on another $138 billion.

But the programs have ambiguous results. Moreover, teen pregnancy has already gone down 22 percent since 1991. Here’s an especially telling point I hadn’t thought of before:

Finally, national teenage pregnancy and birth rate figures have often been intertwined with the rising rates of out-of-wedlock births in the general population.

For teenage girls, however, the percentage of out-of-wedlock births as a proportion of the general population has remained stable for more than four decades at about 14 percent. For those who say the problem of teenage pregnancy is getting worse, they are often mixing up their public policy problems; that is, teenage pregnancy and illegitimacy.

Out-of-wedlock births are another thorny issue, but the best path for government is to stop encouraging such births through welfare payments and to otherwise get out of the way. Ultimately, individuals need to learn from their communities and from their families how and when to have families. Hearing your president tell you to “Just Say No” to sex will probably be about as effective as that other “Just Say No” program.