Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) have introduced legislation to finally end Title V from the Social Security Act for Abstinence-Only Programs. The Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act would eliminate $50 million a year in funding an ineffective, unethical, and poor public health program. The Lautenberg-Lee legislation would ensure that federal funding is instead provided for comprehensive sex education that is evidence-based. What a novel idea, no?
Considerable research has shown that abstinence-only-until-marriage education programs are ineffective in preventing or even delaying sex and have actually decreased contraceptive use among teens. The program’s main teachings are not based on evidence, public health, and social science research. Rather, it pushes a specific ideology and conservative political agenda while posing ethical dilemmas as a result of withholding information and promoting inaccurate opinions. Furthermore, abstinence-only programs emphasize waiting until marriage alienating gay, lesbian, queer, and trans youth. They have endangered youth by not teaching them how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and failing to recognize sexuality as a part of a normal, healthy life.
Since 1996, the federal government has spent more than $1.5 million for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and does not even include funding for those abroad. The new legislation will reprogram funding through the Personal Responsibility Education (PREP) program, which provides both abstinence and contraception information to youth and includes information about adult preparation topics like healthy relationships, adolescent development, financial literacy, educational and career success and healthy life skills.
It’s about damn time.