Oppose Federal Funding of Abstinence-Only Education!

Oppose Federal Funding of Abstinence-Only Education! 

Since 1997, Congress allocated well over half a billion dollars to education programs that teach abstinence-only-until-marriage (often referred to as abstinence-only). By law, these programs must have as their "exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity." Programs that emphasize abstinence but also teach about contraception and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (often referred to as comprehensive sexuality education) are not eligible for this money. 

Among other conditions, abstinence-only programs must also convey that "a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in [the] context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity" and that "sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects." 

Since this restrictive brand of abstinenece education was adopted as part of the 1996 welfare reform bill, Congress has imposed it on two other federal programs. With these three programs, federal funding for abstinence education now totals over $100 million per year. In contrast, no federal money whatsover is spent on comprehensive sex education. 

Legislation that would authorize the continued use of federal tax dollars to support programs that exclusively teach abstinence was recently approved in the House as part of a broader welfare reauthorization bill. Consideration of the proposal now moves to the Senate. While this bill affects only one of the three federal abstinence-only programs, it is important to oppose any continued funding of these harmful programs in their current form. 

Urge Your Representatives to Oppose Reauthorization for Abstinence-Only Education!

Censoring health information will endanger young people's health.
Due to an increased focus on abstinence-only education, comprehensive, medically-accurate sexuality education is becoming the exception rather than the rule. As a result, more students lack basic information that they need to protect their health. The reality is that 90 percent of Americans have intercourse before marriage, and 50 percent of teens are sexually active by the time they leave high school. It is irresponsible - and dangerous - not to provide young people with the knowledge necessary to prevent pregnancy and STDs. 

 Abstinence-only programs are discriminatory.
By excluding information about safe sex practices and teaching about sex only in the context of marriage, abstinence-only programs stigmatize gay and lesbian teens and undermine efforts to educate them about HIV and STD prevention. Many abstinence-only curricula are overtly hostile to lesbians and gay men. Such hostility violates the rights of these students to attend school free of discrimination. 

 Federal dollars must not fund censorship.
While a discussion of abstaining from sexual activity is an important component of any sexuality education curriculum, programs that focus exclusively on abstinence inhibit free expression by forbidding the discussion of essential information about human sexuality and reproduction. Recipients of abstinence-only money are forced to omit any mention of topics such as contraception, abortion, homosexuality, and AIDS or to present these subjects in a non-scientific, medically inaccurate, or incomplete fashion. 

 

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