Friday, May 8, 2009

Quick hit: President Obama cuts funding for abstinence-only sex education

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

This is some great news: President Obama's 2010 federal budget will almost eliminate federal funding for abstinence-only sex education. But that's not all - the budget replaces it with a pair of teen-pregnancy prevention programs that - wait for it - could include discussions of birth control.

Clearly, we're not where we need to be yet. But this is a giant step in the right direction. Again, though, the battle isn't won - the budget still needs to be approved by Congress. This has been a much-discussed issue this week, as Bristol Palin changed her tune about abstinence-only sex education and began a tour promoting it. Gail Collins has a great column about this in the NYT this week. My favorite pair of quotes: “I just want to go out there and promote abstinence and say this is the safest choice,” Bristol said on “Good Morning America.” (“It’s not going to work,” said her ex-boyfriend, Levi Johnston, in a dueling early-morning interview.)

Abstinence-only sex educations have generally been proven to be failures (as Bristol and Levi prove - as Gail Collins puts it, "[they] used condoms - except when they didn't"). The Wall Street Journal reports that "a 2007 federally funded study by Mathematica Policy Research, a nonpartisan group, found that participants in four programs had just as many sexual partners and those who did not participate and had sex at the same median age as non-participants." This sounds like fairly damning evidence for programs which conservatives have touted as the best way to educate children about sex. Sarah Palin claims that abstinence-only is the "only 100% foolproof way to prevent pregnancy" (except when it isn't).

As a veteran of the "health" program in a school system in central Virginia, I can attest to the significant failure of these initiatives. There were always several pregnant girls in my high school, but I don't remember the word "condom" being uttered during 9th-grade sex education (although my teacher did misspell "clitoris"). This is a case where you should really write to your congressional representatives and let them know how important these issues are to you. Every teenager has the right to safe and accurate sex education.


At May 9, 2009 at 9:44 AM , Anonymous dsfa said...

Correlation means causation!

At May 9, 2009 at 4:16 PM , Blogger --eg said...

I'm so happy about this. At my high school graduation, there were three women that were pregnant, with several other that had had children as early as their freshman year. We also were treated to an assembly where pam Stenzel spread her hateful, horribly inaccurate bile. We need to espand the discussion on sexuality.

At May 11, 2009 at 1:46 PM , Blogger Brenda said...

i had "health" education in public school in central NJ and that was pretty a) homophobic and b) abstinence-oriented. so abstinence-only attitudes had rippling impacts even on the supposedly more liberal east coast.

At August 19, 2009 at 12:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry I'm afraid I can't use my name. But I can relate, I've just gone through sex-education at my school just this past school year. My 2 teachers were from Planned Parenthood, one was shy and seemed very embaressed to talk about sex with us, the other was calm and open, and wasn't embaressed at all, I liked talking to her best. No homophobia came up, even though I knew at least one person who was in my class, but they told us it was okay to question our sexuality and we should be kind to those who might or don't go the same way we do. We also talked about avoiding pregnancies, like communicating with our partner and birth control options that were available to teens. All they said on abstience was that it was a 100% guarentee to not getting pregnant or be given an STI. I sometimes enjoyed having them there, to ask questions and be given information, but I worried sllightly when they revealed to us that they were to teach us abstience-oriented, but it didn't have to be medically correct information.

Overall I think it was alright. I learned more, espically compared to my previous school's choice of just showing us 2 or 3 videos, that didn't make much sense of questions I had and I could tell the teachers, our daily teachers, which can make you feel uncomfortable if you dont really enjoy having that teacher or don't have a class with them so you don't know them well enough to have that kind of discussion with them. They were either very uncomfortable or were very serious, so serious that she intimaded us.

I was still trying to figure out what they had told us in the videos when she asked us if we had any questions; insert awkward moment, it was hard to understand what else they wanted us to know, so we didn't ask any questions, when we weren't given enough information.

So basically I agree with Barack taking away some money from absteince-oreiented, and giving to real sex-education, I'd like to know that teens now and future can be given good, reliable resources in which they can trust and not make any mistakes that may effect themselves and others, forever.


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