Today, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) announced they have reintroduced legislation that would give America's youth the knowledge they need to make educated decisions about their health. The "Real Education for Healthy Youth Act" seeks to expand comprehensive sex education programs in schools, while ensuring that federal funds are spent on effective, age-appropriate, medically-accurate programs.
"Young adults should be presented with all of the information they need to make smart choices. It's clear that "abstinence-only' programs simply don't work, and this bill would ensure that U.S. policy and federal funding reflect that reality. It's time to bring sex education up-to-date to reflect the real-life situations facing American youth," said Senator Lautenberg.
"Comprehensive sex education programs reduce behaviors that put young people at risk, and it's past time we get real about giving young people the information they need from trusted sources to live healthy lives," said Congresswoman Lee. "Research has shown that programs which teach abstinence and contraception effectively delay the onset of sexual intercourse, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase contraceptive use among teens. These programs also reduce unintended pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV."
Unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) continue to threaten the health and well-being of our nation's youth. The United States still has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world. In 2010, there were approximately 19 million new cases of STIs, almost half of them occurring in young people between 15 and 24 years old.
The "Real Education for Healthy Youth Act" would help schools implement and expand age-appropriate comprehensive sex education programs that are medically accurate and evidence-based, train teachers and educators to effectively educate teenagers in order to reduce unintended pregnancy and the transmission of STIs, and expand sex education programs at colleges and universities. The bill would also prevent federal funds from being spent on ineffective, medically inaccurate sex education programs.
The legislation is supported by AIDS Alliance for Women, Infants, Children, Youth & Families; Advocates for Youth; the AIDS Institute; AIDS United; American Civil Liberties Union; Choice USA; Guttmacher Institute; Futures Without Violence; Healthy Teen Network; Human Rights Campaign; International Women's Health Coalition; Jewish Women International; NARAL Pro-Choice America; National Abortion Federation; National Coalition of STD Directors; National Council of Jewish Women; National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association; National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; National Partnership for Women & Families; Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health; Planned Parenthood Federation of America; and Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS).
The bill is co-sponsored in the Senate by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Al Franken (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). The House bill has 35 co-sponsors.