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.