The Importance Of Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Our guest blogger is Lucy Panza, a policy analyst with the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Cent for American Progress Action Fund.

Last week, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced H.R. 3324, the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act. The bill would expand upon “age-appropriate comprehensive sex education programs” that are “medically accurate and evidence-based,” and also, just as importantly, cease all federal funding for abstinence-only sex education. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SEICUS) summarizes the bill’s other highlights:

— Recognizing young people’s right to sexual health information–the first time federal legislation has ever done so

Preparing young people to make informed, responsible and healthy decisions about relationships and sexual health by including a comprehensive range of topics such as communication and decision-making skills; promoting safe and healthy relationships; and preventing unintended pregnancy, HIV, other STDs, dating violence, sexual assault, bullying, and harassment

— Including grants for comprehensive sex education programs for adolescents and young adults in institutions of higher education

Requiring all funded programs to be inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual youth and meet the needs of young people who are and are not sexually active

— Providing resources for teacher training to ensure that our nation’s sex educators have the tools they need to provide the highest quality comprehensive sex education possible to our nation’s youth.

Why is this legislation necessary? For decades, the federal government has been involved in the business of funding medically inaccurate and dangerously under-researched abstinence-only sex education, which only focuses on telling youth not to have sex and uses scare tactics to demonize pre-marital sex. What has resulted, as documented in recent research by Choice USA, is a severe lack of information about reproductive health among our youth who, not surprisingly, engage in sexual activity regardless of what their antiquated curriculum dictates. Furthermore, sex ed has traditionally been focused on heterosexual sexual activity only, which leaves out lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.

As Senator Lautenberg said in support of this legislation, “Growing up isn’t easy and our kids find themselves in tough situations every day. They need all the information to make smart choices and ‘abstinence-only’ programs don’t work. It’s time to bring sex education up-to-date to reflect the real life situations facing young Americans.” Indeed.