Over the past 25 years, the federal government has spent nearly $2 million on ineffective sex education programs that promote abstinence as the only way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
In the good news department, President Obama’s proposed 2017 federal budget cuts all funding for abstinence programs and increases funding for comprehensive sex education in schools.
Jesseca Boyer, Interim President and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), praised Obama’s budget cut in a statement:
SIECUS is grateful for President Obama’s leadership in seeking to end abstinence-only-until-marriage funding once and for all… The President’s proposed budget increases support for programs and efforts that seek to equip young people with the skills they need to ensure their lifelong sexual health and well-being.
For years, advocates for women’s health have called for an end to abstinence-only education. Planned Parenthood has stated that such programs withhold information that young people need to make healthy, informed decisions:
Abstinence-only programs do not delay sexual initiation or lower rates of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), according to a 10-year government study. It’s no wonder the Institute of Medicine called for the termination of abstinence-only programs because they represent “poor fiscal and public health policy.”
A study conducted for the Department of Health and Human Services in 2007 found that students who received abstinence-only education did not delay sex or have fewer sexual partners than their peers.
Bustle reported that a majority of Americans support sex education that does more than just promote abstinence:
According to the pro-choice group NARAL, an overwhelming majority — more than 80 percent — of Americans support a blended curriculum that emphasizes the benefits of abstinence without ignoring the practical lessons of condom and contraceptive use.
As an alternative to promoting abstinence until marriage, comprehensive sex education provides students with information on a full range of topics related to their sexual health – from sexual anatomy, safer sex, and contraception to body image, sexual orientation, and relationships. National data shows that teens who receive comprehensive sex education are less likely to have an unwanted pregnancy.
Congress must approve the proposed budget by the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. If approved, the elimination of abstinence-only programs will be a victory for all of us who have fought for sex education that is evidence-based, accurate and empowering.
Josephine Cristobal is a Filipina American writer and multimedia storyteller. Over the past eight years, she has worked in media and strategic communications for gender and racial justice.