Today, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (REHYA), which would provide youth and young adults with comprehensive and inclusive sex education, replacing ineffective and medically inaccurate abstinence-only programs.
Specifically, the bill, which Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced last year in the House, would fund teacher training on sex education and provide grants for comprehensive sex education to public or private entities that focus on adolescent health and education or have experience with training sex educators. In addition, REHYA would require, rather than merely encourage, inclusiveness of LGBTQ youth in sex education and would prohibit federal funding of programs that are insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of LGBTQ youth.
REHYA aims to prevent unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, sexual abuse, dating violence, bullying and harassment. The legislation also seeks to promote healthy relationships and aims to uphold the rights of youth to accurate information about sexual health. Federal funding would be prohibited for any programs that would withhold information about HIV, are not medically accurate or proven ineffective, promote gender stereotypes or are inconsistent with ethical imperatives of public health.
According to a 2005-2006 national survey of U.S. adults published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, more than eight in 10 respondents support comprehensive sex education. Furthermore, a 2007 memo based on research conducted on behalf of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Women’s Law Center indicated that a majority of voters in nearly every demographic category, including Democrats, Republicans and Independents, as well as Catholics and evangelical Christians, support comprehensive sex education.
Not only do current abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs conflict with public opinion of what sex education should cover, they also exclude, or even denigrate, LGBTQ students. The Senate version of the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act would eliminate federal funding for harmful abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, instead reprograming the funding to support the new comprehensive grant program.
HRC is committed to ensuring that all youth are able to receive comprehensive and inclusive sex education. This past December, HRC, Advocates for Youth, Answer, GLSEN, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) called on parents, youth, educators and policymakers to help make sex education more inclusive of LGBTQ youth. To learn more, check out A Call to Action: LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education.