Young People Deserve More From Sex Ed Than Pregnancy Prevention

May is usually Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. But this year, reproductive rights groups have launched Sex Ed For All Month in its place.

Instead of focusing only on pregnancy prevention, organizations will put sexual health information, access and rights for all young people in the spotlight.

The change comes on the heels of the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to move the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program away from evidence-based sexual health approaches and toward abstinence-only methods.

Shortly after Donald Trump took office, the department eliminated many existing grants and reduced others for groups that work to lower teen pregnancy rates. And in his first two budget proposals, Trump attempted to completely defund the program. But in the end, Congress maintained TPP funding, which isn’t surprising given the program’s success.

From 2010 to 2014, the program’s first cohort of grantees reached half a million young people. That number now has more than doubled to 1.2 million. Plus, TPP-funded programs have trained 6,100 facilitators and established 3,800 community partnerships.

Thanks to programs like TPP, the United States’ teen pregnancy rate is at an all time low. Research shows this drop is primarily due to increased use of contraception. And because of the TPP Program’s commitment to furthering evidence-based education, the numbers were likely to continue to get better — until Trump intervened.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Even after significant declines, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate continues to outstrip those of other developed nations. And disparities still exist among racial, ethnic and geographic groups. So it is essential that effective sexual health education efforts continue.

And yet, under Trump, the government is moving backward toward abstinence-only education — an approach that has been proven time and time again to be ineffective. Perhaps because of this, the Department of Health and Human Services has rebranded its programs as “sexual risk avoidance.” But all the trademarks of abstinence-only remain.

Under its new funding opportunity announcements, the Department of Health and Human Services requires future TPP grant recipients to encourage teens to avoid sex — or, if they’re already sexually active, to return to abstinence. These directives are couched in new, convoluted language that conspicuously avoids the term abstinence-only. Instead, you’ll find that teens are encouraged to avoid “risk behavior” (sex) — or if it’s too late for that, to “return toward risk-free choices in the future.”

Sex Ed For All Month is a rejection both of abstinence-only sex education and approaches that focus only on pregnancy and disease prevention. Instead, the organizations involved plan to concentrate on all the sexual health needs of youths — particularly those who are already marginalized, including young people who are LGBTQ, immigrants, low income or living in rural areas or in foster care.

“Our young people need sex-positive, high quality sex ed and access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health care,” Janet Max, acting president and CEO for the Healthy Teen Network, says in a Planned Parenthood news release. “And they need it now. Why ‘Sex Ed for All’? Because it’s a human right.”

Image credit: relif/Getty Images

32 comments

Shirley S
Shirley S9 days ago

Specialist Teachers are needed to teach this subject in a proper fashion.

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Lisa M
Lisa M12 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M12 days ago

Thanks.

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Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn12 days ago

Many thanks to you !

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Kay B
Kay B12 days ago

Kids these days have no idea that sex outside of marriage is wrong because they are not taught. There are more children born and raised in single parent households now than there were decades ago. Seems we are going backwards.

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Debbi W
Debbi W13 days ago

Of course teens need more sex ed than how to prevent pregnancy. The teachers MUST be comfortable teaching this subject. Just assigning John Jones to do it won't work. The kids will make a joke of the class if the teacher is uncomfortable.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie13 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie13 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie13 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Alea C
Alea C13 days ago

Crazy christians don't want sex ed, they want more babies, and if that isn't the definition of crazy I don't know what is. We need less people, not more, with our climate crisis!

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