Friday, February 11, 2005

Senator Lautenberg Introduces Legislation to Provide Comprehensive Sex Education in Schools

In a refreshing change, bills have been introduced in Congress to fund reality-based sexuality education in the schools. Neither text nor numbers are available on Thomas yet, but here is Sentator Lautenberg's press release on his bill.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At a press conference today, United States Senator Frank R.
Lautenberg and Rep. Barbara Lee announced the introduction of the "Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act"; legislation that will bring a comprehensive
approach to teaching young people about the risks of sex, and the steps necessary to prevent unwanted pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).

The measure will create a grant program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would award $206 million per year to states for comprehensive sexuality education programs that would include medically accurate information about both abstinence and contraception. While $206 million in federal funding currently exists for "abstinence only before marriage education", there is no funding dedicated to comprehensive sex education.

"Abstinence only education only tells young people half the story, and they need the full picture," said Senator Lautenberg. "The abstinence-only programs funded by the federal government are not getting the job done."

Even the Heritage Foundation finds that "Some 75 percent of parents want teens to be taught about both abstinence and contraception." A Hickman-Brown 1999 poll reports that 93 percent of Americans support teaching comprehensive sex education in high schools.

"The REAL Act is a step in a more effective direction. It brings sex education up-to-date in a way that will reflect the serious issues and real life situations millions of children find themselves in every year," said Lautenberg.

I'm guessing that this won't pass, but it could open the dialogue, and dialogue is sorely needed. While abstinence is a good strategy for some people at certain points in their lives, unless one is making a lifelong vow of abstinence, there will come a point when some information about sex is going to be needed. That's the point at which reality-based information about contraception, disease prevention, and sexual health would come in mighty handy.

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