It’s an exciting time for anyone who thinks it’s important for young people to have access to information about sex and sexuality. Yesterday, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced legislation that would finally end federal funding for abstinence-only programs.
The Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act would strike the Title V Abstinence Only Program from the Social Security Act, eliminating $50 million a year in funding for these dangerous programs. Funding would be transferred to the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) state-grant program. PREP programs are evidence-based, required to address both abstinence and contraception and include information about adult preparation topics like healthy relationships, adolescent development, financial literacy, educational and career success and healthy life skills.
As we’ve written about many times here, abstinence-only programs don’t give young people the tools they need to navigate relationships and make informed decisions about their sexual health. They do push a specific ideology that is pro-straight marriage and ignores the needs of queer and trans youth, sexually active youth, and those who have been sexually abused. Since 1996 the federal government has wasted over $1.5 billion on abstinence-only, including programs that studies have shown do not decrease sexual activity but do decrease contraceptive use.
The tide as been turning against abstinence-only programs for a while. Almost half the states have already rejected Title V funding. The funding was almost eliminated through the budget process last year, but conservatives used health care reform to reinstate this attack on young people’s health. This legislation would get rid of the funding stream so we don’t have to go through that sort of waste of time political fight again.
We’ve taken a huge step towards cutting off federal funds for abstinence-only programs. For this legislation to move Senator Lautenberg and Representative Lee need to be joined by other members of congress as cosponsors of the legislation. To take action and encourage your senators and representative to support the bill please click here.