Abstinence-Only Education Shouldn’t Make the Cut

NOW Press Release: http://www.now.org/lists/now-action-list/msg00404.html

Abstinence-Only Education Shouldn’t Make the Cut

Abstinence-only education is dangerous and ineffective, and has no place in our health care reform legislation. But Senator Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) abstinence-only-until-marriage amendment has been tucked in with the health care reform legislation — and we need your help to strike it when it reaches Senate floor. Women everywhere need the Senate to support comprehensive sex education programs, not ideological crusades.

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Action Needed:

Please take time now to call or e-mail your senators to urge that the Hatch abstinence-only-until-marriage amendment be eliminated from health care reform legislation, and that they strongly support a comprehensive approach to sex education.

Two amendments regarding sex education were passed with the health care reform legislation in the Senate Finance Committee: one by Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) authorizing federal funding for comprehensive sex education programs and one by Sen. Hatch to restore funds for abstinence-only programs.

When health care reform legislation reaches the Senate floor, we need to ensure Congress only supports a comprehensive approach to sex education and does not promote dangerous and ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that put young women and girls at serious risk. In contacting your senators, you can use our formatted message or create one in your own words.

Background:

The Good News:

In the Senate Finance Committee, The Responsibility Education for Adulthood Training amendment passed 14-9 with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) joining all the Democrats voting in favor. The amendment offered by Sen. Baucus (D-Mont.) provides $75 million for states for evidence-based, medically accurate, age-appropriate programs to educate adolescents about both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of unintended pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS, as well as for research and evaluation.

These types of sex education programs provide students with information they can use and have a proven track record of decreasing unintended pregnancy and STIs. They give young women and girls the knowledge that empowers them to live their lives without fear of STIs and pregnancy.

Reviews of published evaluations of sexuality education, HIV-prevention, and adolescent pregnancy-prevention programs have consistently found that they:

  • do not encourage teens to start having sexual intercourse
  • do not increase the frequency with which teens have intercourse, and
  • do not increase the number of sexual partners teens have.

Instead these programs can:

  • delay the onset of intercourse
  • reduce the frequency of intercourse
  • reduce the number of sexual partners, and
  • increase condom or other contraceptive use.

The Bad News:

Also in the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Hatch’s amendment to reinstate $50 million per year to the failed Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program passed by a razor-thin margin of 12-11 with Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) joining all the Republicans voting in favor. The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program expired on June 30, at which time nearly half of the states had refused it both because of the restrictive nature of the program and the fact that overwhelming evidence revealed these programs to be ineffective, dangerous for young women and girls, and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

These programs rely on negative messages about sexuality, distort information about condoms and STIs, and promote biases based on gender, sexual orientation, marriage, family structure, and pregnancy options.

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