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Senator Lautenberg, Representative Lee and Advocates Say It's Time to Provide 'Real' Comprehensive Sex Education
Lawmakers Introduce REAL Act To Fund Comprehensive Sex Education
Lautenberg Press Office (202) 224-3224
Tuesday, March 17,
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) today joined the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SEICUS), NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Advocates for Youth and other leading health care groups to introduce a bill that would authorize federal funding for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual education. Currently, federal funding is only available for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs which have been shown to exclude important information about contraception to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and are ineffective in delaying sexual activity among youth.
“Growing up isn't easy and our young people find themselves in tough situations every day. They need all the information to make smart choices, and ‘abstinence-only’ programs simply aren’t working,” Sen. Lautenberg said. “It's time for our nation’s young people to get the education they need to take on the real life situations facing them every day.”
“It’s time for us to get REAL about sex education. We should absolutely be teaching young people about abstinence, but we shouldn't be holding back information that can save lives and prevent unwanted pregnancies. Instead of ‘abstinence only,’ what we're proposing is ‘abstinence-plus,’” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA).
“We are very grateful to the policy makers, under the leadership of Senator Lautenberg and Congresswoman Lee, who are supporting this important legislation,” said Joseph DiNorcia, Jr., president and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. "President Obama was a cosponsor of the REAL Act when he was a Senator, and has made it very clear that he supports comprehensive sexuality education by signing the appropriations for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2009 with the first ever cut to federal abstinence-only-until-marriage spending. Congress should follow his lead not only by cutting all remaining funding for failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, but by passing the REAL Act and funding programs that work.”
“As someone who spent 25 years as a teacher and state education official in Montana, I know young people need honest, medically accurate information," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "I commend Sen. Lautenberg, Rep. Lee, and all the bill’s supporters for answering the public's call to move away from funding the failed Bush-backed 'abstinence-only' policies. Americans, most of all parents, want to provide teens with the truth about contraception and other ways to prevent sexually transmitted diseases or avoid unintended pregnancy.”
“We applaud Senator Lautenberg and Representative Lee for the introduction of the REAL ACT, and for their commitment to ensuring America’s teens have the information needed to keep them healthy and safe,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Abstinence-only education has failed our young people. Our country currently leads the most developed countries in the world in the number of teenage pregnancies, at least one in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted infection, and an estimated 750,000 teenagers will become pregnant this year. The REAL Act is common sense legislation that will help our young people prevent teen pregnancy, protect their health and make responsible decisions."
“The REAL Act is a necessary first step if we are serious about providing young people the important education and information they need to make responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health,” James Wagoner, President of Advocates for Youth, said.
The Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act would establish the first grant program for comprehensive sex education. Under the bill, sex education programs would be age-appropriate, medically accurate and provide information about both contraception and abstinence. Research has shown that comprehensive sex education programs are effective in reducing risk behaviors by delaying the onset of sexual intercourse, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use among teens.
Of the 19 million cases of sexually transmitted diseases annually in the United States, almost half of them strike young people ages 15 to 24. Every day, an average of 24 young people – or one young person every hour – is infected with HIV in the United States. The United States also has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world.
Despite these statistics, there are three separate federal programs that fund abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, but no federal funding currently exists specifically for comprehensive sexuality education. Currently, states can only receive funding if they agree to teach abstinence-only-until-marriage while excluding information about the health benefits of contraception to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. A 2007 report on state-funded, abstinence-only programs found the programs had no measurable impact on increasing abstinence or delaying sexual initiation among youth.
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