WASHINGTON – Los Angeles Representative Barbara Lee and Newark Senator Frank R. Lautenberg introduced legislation to cut off federal funding for ineffective, abstinence-only-until-marriage education programs. Despite spending more than $1.5 billion in federal funds for abstinence-only education over the last 15 years, the United States maintains one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world and one-third of all new HIV infections in the United States occur among those under the age of 29. A Congressionally-mandated study found that abstinence-only programs fail to effectively teach teens how to prevent unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. The Lee-Lautenberg bill, introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, would reallocate the abstinence-only funding to comprehensive sex education programs.
“We need to get serious about educating our young people about sex. Abstinence-only programs fail to address the challenge of unplanned pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections among our youth, which have reached a critical level,” said Rep. Barbara Lee. “The bill that I am introducing today with Senator Lautenberg and others ensures that, in a time of tight budgets, we fund comprehensive sex education programs that have been proven to work, instead of throwing money away on programs that don't.”
“Abstinence-only education doesn’t work and is a poor use of federal funding. Our nation’s young adults deserve access to information that helps them take on real life situations and make smart decisions,” Lautenberg said. “This legislation would make smart investments in programs that prevent teen pregnancy and stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.”
The “Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act” would strike Title V, Section 510 from the Social Security Act. That provision has been the funding mechanism for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for nearly 15 years. The bill would reprogram $50 million annually to evidence-based, comprehensive sex education programs funded through the Personal Responsibility Education (PREP) program. PREP funds comprehensive sex education programs that provide both abstinence and contraception information to teens and educates them about preventing sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, and unintended pregnancy, as well as life skills that help youth make healthy decisions.
The legislation is supported by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and Advocates for Youth, which co-chair a coalition advocating for comprehensive sex education programs. Other coalition members in support of the legislation include The AIDS Institute, AIDS United, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Catholics for Choice, Choice USA, Guttmacher Institute, Human Rights Campaign, International Women’s Health Coalition, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Council of Jewish Women, National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Connection, Union for Reform Judaism, and the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS).
“It is the right moment for our country to pass The Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act,” said Monica Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. “The focus of government this year needs to be on increasing the health and well-being of our nation’s young people by investing in health education programs that work and eliminating wasteful programs that don’t serve any purpose but to line the pockets of special interests. Eliminating the failed and ineffective Title V abstinence-only program so we can concentrate on bringing real, comprehensive sexuality education to young people is a good step in achieving these goals.”
The co-sponsors of the House bill are: Diana DeGette (CO-01), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Sam Farr (CA-17), Bob Filner (CA-51), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07), Luis Gutierrez (IL-04), Rush Holt (NJ-12), Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL-02), Nita Lowey (NY-18), Carolyn Maloney (NY-14), James McGovern (MA-03), Gwen Moore (WI-04), James Moran (VA-08), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), John Olver (MA-01), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Charles Rangel (NY-15), Janice Schakowsky (IL-09), Pete Stark (CA-13), Lynn Woolsey (CA-06).
The bill is co-sponsored in the Senate by Mark Begich (D-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), John Kerry (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR).