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Promoting the Sexual Health of Youth

Lorraine Kenny,
Associate Director for Communications/Marketing
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November 20, 2009

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most comprehensive treaty on children’s rights. The convention has been ratified by nearly every country in the world, except for the United States. The convention would fill current gaps in U.S. laws, and provide all children in America with the same robust protections that children in 193 countries are already entitled to.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a framework for thinking about how we can best educate and care for our youth. It calls upon us to provide young people with the information and skills they need to lead healthy, productive, and peaceful lives. These are core principles and goals we should all be able to rally behind. Yet, we have failed for so long to secure a world built on these ideals.

An important piece of realizing such a world includes ensuring young people’s health, including their sexual health, and how we prepare them to be healthy adults. For too long, our government has financed and pushed an abstinence-only-until-marriage approach to scare young people into not having sex and to push a social agenda that promotes discrimination against LGBT communities and women. This push has been in full-swing, both domestically and internationally, for more than a decade. We have been disseminating misinformation about birth control, condoms, and the role of sexuality in our lives. And we’ve been exporting a failed and unjust social policy that leaves young people bereft of the tools and skills they need to avoid unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection and to build supportive relationships and intimate human connections.

The great news is that we currently have the opportunity to stop this failed experiment and to get the country on track when it comes to teaching young people about their sexual health. In his fiscal year 2010 budget, President Obama took a critically important first step by removing abstinence-only programs. In addition, he called for a new initiative to fund evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs. This is a good sign that there’s political will to get things moving in the right direction.

We now need to make sure that Congress follows the president’s lead. Just yesterday morning, Newsweek’s blog reported that the Senate health-reform bill, released last night, restores some funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programming. Ugh! Don’t we have enough to worry about when it comes to health care reform and efforts to cut off women’s access to abortion coverage in the proposed health insurance exchange?

Help us stop Congress from reviving failed abstinence-only programming. Don’t allow young people’s sexual health to continue to be a political battleground. On this 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, let’s uphold its core principles and get to work on securing the health and lives of young people at home and abroad.

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