Date: October 24, 2016
(Download the print version below.)
Topic: Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health
Subject: Comprehensive Sexuality Education
Recommendation: Enact the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act
Congressional Action Request
- S. Representatives: Co-sponsor the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (H.R. 3602).
- S. Senators: Co-sponsor the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (S. 1653).
U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (H.R. 3602) in 2017. U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a companion measure (S. 1653). The Senator and Representative have invited their colleagues to co-sponsor the legislation.
The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (REHYA) seeks to provide young people with the comprehensive sexual health education they need to make informed, responsible, and healthy decisions in order to become sexually healthy adults and have healthy relationships. Among its provisions, REHYA would:
- Recognize young people’s right to sexual health information.
- Prepare young people to make informed, responsible, and healthy decisions about relationships and sexual health by requiring federally-funded sexuality education programs to include a range of topics such as communication and decision-making skills, promoting safe and healthy relationships, and preventing unintended pregnancy, HIV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), dating violence, sexual assault, bullying, and harassment.
- Require federally-funded sexuality education to be evidence-based, medically accurate, complete, age- and developmentally appropriate, gender and gender-identity sensitive, and culturally and linguistically competent.
- Authorize funds (at such sums as may be necessary) for comprehensive sexual health education programs for adolescents and young adults in schools, community-based organizations, and institutions of higher education.
- Authorize funds (at such sums as may be necessary) for teacher training to ensure sex educators have the tools they need to provide the highest quality comprehensive sex education possible to our nation’s youth.
- Prohibit federal funds from being spent on health education programs that deliberately withhold life-saving information about HIV, are medically inaccurate, or have been scientifically shown to be ineffective, promote gender stereotypes, are insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of sexually active adolescents, are inconsistent with the ethical imperatives of medicine and public health, or are insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender youth.
- Remove limitations on using AIDS prevention program funding for education or information that promotes sexual activity or intravenous substance abuse.
- Allow federal education funding to be used for contraceptive distribution in schools.
Why This Matters
- Unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) continue to threaten the health and well-being of our nation’s youth. The United States still has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world. In 2009, there were approximately 19 million new cases of STIs, almost half of them occurring in young people between 15 to 24 years old. Young people accounted for 39 percent of all new HIV infections in the same year.
- Comprehensive sexuality education programs reduce behaviors that put young people at risk.
- Research has shown that programs that teach abstinence and contraception effectively delay the onset of sexual intercourse, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase contraceptive use among teens. These programs also reduce unintended pregnancy and the transmission of STIs, including HIV.
- There is broad public support for comprehensive sexual health education, which includes information about both abstinence and contraception.
- Young people themselves are the biggest proponents of comprehensive sexual health education. Recent research shows that 88 percent of Millennials support comprehensive sexual health education. Millennials show nearly universal support for sexual health education to include information about preventing HIV/AIDS and other STIs (91%), healthy relationships (90%), preventing unplanned pregnancy (88%), and information on abstinence from sex (79%).
- REHYA would ensure that U.S. policy and federal funding support a comprehensive approach to sexuality education, rather an abstinence-only focus.
REHYA builds upon and strengthens current federal investments in adolescent sexual health that are being made through the President’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) and the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP). The authorization for PREP expires in FY 2017. Authorization for TPPP is currently provided annually through appropriations legislation.
REHYA would require federally-funded sexuality education programs to go beyond offering medically accurate and developmentally appropriate information on preventing unintended pregnancy and STIs, including HIV to also include: anatomy and physiology, growth and development, healthy relationships, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, protection from dating violence, sexual assault, bullying, harassment, educational achievement, critical thinking, decision-making, self-efficacy, and leadership skills and community involvement. In addition, the REHYA would go beyond current federal programs by adding emphasis areas in educator preparation and sexuality education to young adults at institutions of higher education. Moreover, by establishing a policy that requires a comprehensive approach, it would nullify several federal programs that fund abstinence-only education.