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Reforming Sex Education to Prevent Sexually-Transmitted Diseases

Even as Planned Parenthood, MTV and the Kaiser Family Foundation team up in a campaign to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STD), state legislatures are acting to ensure students' access to comprehensive sex education and are rejecting federal funding for failed abstinence-only programs.  Half of all sexually active people will have an STD by the age of 25 with 19 million new STD cases occurring each year.  These statistics highlight the need for improving youth sex education. 

While the previous Administration pursued a failed abstinence-only policy over the last 8 years, 25 states rejected federal funding for abstinence-only sex education and funded comprehensive sex education.  A look at 2009 legislation shows that states continue to view comprehensive sex education as a priority.  As Planned Parenthood reported in an e-mail, so far in 2009, 22 states (AZ, FL. HI, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, NY, OH, OK, OR, RI, TX, UT, VA, and WA) have introduced 53 proactive sex education measures designed to expand students’ access to comprehensive sex education, including:

  • Requiring Medical Accuracy:  Many of these states are requiring that if sex education is being taught then it must be comprehensive and medically accurate such as HI SB 777
  • Options for Teaching Healthy Living: Others, like NC HB 88 would allow all parents the option of having life-saving information on preventing unintended pregnancy and STD's taught to their teen through the healthy living curriculum.
  • Sex Education Grant Programs: Others such as NY HB1806 would establish an age-appropriate sex education grant program within their state health departments to be appropriated to school districts, school-based health centers, and community-based organizations to assist them in conducting a thorough and comprehensive education program aimed at preventing unintended pregnancies and occurrences of sexually transmitted diseases among youth. 

"Get Yourself Tested", a nationwide campaign using youth-oriented entertainment and media to raise awareness of the prevalence of STD's, the importance and ease of getting tested and to encourage parents to talk to their children about sexually transmitted infections.

Potential Federal Funding for State Programs:  The prevalence of STD's has resulted in federal legislation, the Responsible Education About Life Act, or REAL Act  (S. 611), which would fund "comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate sex education" in America's schools.  As Planned Parenthood pointed out in a press release praising the REAL Act, there is currently no federal funding stream dedicated to supporting comprehensive sex education.  Conversely, the Bush Administration funneled $1.5 billion over the past 8 years to abstinence-only sex education programs despite numerous scientific studies showing that such programs do not prevent sexual activity and leave America's youth woefully uneducated about how to protect their sexual health.  

Public Support for comprehensive sex ed is strong.  A poll commissioned by the National Women's Law Center and Planned Parenthood found that 76 percent of voters support comprehensive sex education in public schools.

Resources:
Progressive States Network - States Promoting Contraception to Reduce Unwanted Pregnancies and Abortion Rates
Planned Parenthood - Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Safer Sex
Guttmacher Institute - State Policies in Brief: Insurance Coverage of Contraceptives
National Women's Law Center - Reproductive Choices Five Years of Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Education: Assessing the Impact and Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs