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Elizabeth Smart: "Abstinence-Only" Programs Tell Students Their Lives Have No Value

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Elizabeth Smart caught the nation's attention when she was kidnapped for nine months. She survived horrible trauma - and is now working to protect and educate children about violent and sexual crimes.

When she spoke at a forum on human trafficking, Smart shared that she "felt so dirty and so filthy" after being raped by her kidnapper. She attributes feeling worthless to growing up with "abstinence-only" programs:

"I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.' And that's how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value."

Dangerous "abstinence-only" programs withhold information about reproductive health and often tell students that birth control, including condoms, is ineffective for preventing pregnancy or protecting against STDs. Even worse, these programs use shame to dissuade teens from having sex, and often use comparisons like the "chewed gum" metaphor to make them feel bad for becoming sexually active.

Clearly, shaming teens has consequences. That's why Elizabeth is speaking out through her foundation to send the message that "you will always have value and nothing can change that."

Even now, anti-choice politicians across the country are fighting to defund and block comprehensive sex-education programs that help teens protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and disease and give them the confidence to make the decisions that are right for them.

We're grateful for Smart's courage to speak openly about such a personal chapter in her life. And we hope that her message will not be lost on deaf anti-choice ears in Congress and in state legislatures across the country.

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