Education is the key to the future. The more informed people are, the better the choices they will make, and the happier everyone will be. I’m a particularly vehement supporter of sex education, because it is extremely important for young women to know things like “you can get pregnant even if he pulls out” or “you can get pregnant even during your period.” It’s also important for people to know about what birth control options are available to them, and where to go to get those options. What is not useful, however, is to pay for someone to shout, “Jesus wants you to keep your knees closed, ladies!” at teenage girls, and that’s why it’s pretty great news that President Obama has finally just decided to cut federal funding to abstinence-only sex education programs.
The curriculum I cited above was a joke, but abstinence-only sex education programs have never been shown to be useful or to change kids’ behavior at all. An adult saying that sex is bad and you shouldn’t do it till marriage is not exactly educational or useful, and studies have shown that abstinence-only sex education programs don’t even have an impact on teens’ sexual behavior. Teens will have sex regardless of what their teachers are telling them to do, so abstinence-only programs are actively hurting kids because they’re running out and being just as sexually active as kids who are getting real educations, but they’re running out without any information about the risks involved or how to protect themselves.
“At present, there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners. In addition, there is strong evidence from multiple randomized trials demonstrating that some abstinence programs chosen for evaluation because they were believed to be promising actually had no impact on teen sexual behavior.”
Basically, abstinence-only sex education is religious malarky and has no place in secular schools. (For the record, my Catholic school talked about condoms and birth control and the morning-after pill and about how a woman can get pregnant even if a guy pulls out. Like, the teacher explained it in those actual words.) And finally that garbage has been cut from the federal budget.
President Obama just announced the 2017 federal budget, and there’s no room for abstinence-only sex education in there at all. Previously the Department of Health and Human Services paid $10 million a year for abstinence-only sex education programs. Over the past 25 years, that has been $1.5 billion going to programs that don’t reduce pregnancy rates, STDs, or HIV infection rates. If the government wanted to spend $10 million on something that wouldn’t make a difference in pregnancy rates or STD rates, they could just have used the money to buy us all Blizzards. Then at least we’d have ice cream.
Cutting abstinence-only education programs from the budget is a pretty great move, and hopefully whoever is our next president will keep that up. Education is great and should be fully funded, but abstinence-only education is not “education” in any sense of the word.
Go ahead and tell kids not to have sex. Maybe they’ll even listen! But it is not fair to deny them basic information about their own health options and how their own bodies work just because you’re afraid of them having sex.
(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)