Issue: Federal Advocacy

Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act

The Problem

Despite a wealth of evidence indicating that comprehensive sex education is the most effective method to delay sexual activity and reduce the number of partners among teens, Congress has spent almost $1.5 billion on abstinence-only programs since 1996.  Abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs exclude, or even denigrate, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.  These programs are prohibited by law from discussing contraceptive use and exclude, by design, LGBT youth because marriage is unavailable to LGBT individuals in most parts of the country.   Abstinence-only programs have been discredited by a wide body of evidence, including a Congressionally-mandated study in 2007 which found these programs ineffective in stopping or delaying teen sex, reducing the number of reported sexual partners, reducing sexually transmitted infections or otherwise beneficially impacting young people’s sexual behavior.  Additionally, no study in a professional peer-reviewed journal has found abstinence-only programs to be broadly effective.

 

What is the Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act?

The Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act would strike Title V Section 510 of the Social Security Act from statute, and thereby end the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage programs once and for all.  It would transfer funding to the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) state-grant program.  PREP-funded programs are required to provide information on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, with a substantial emphasis on both abstinence and contraceptive use.  Programs must also address adulthood preparation topics—such as healthy relationships, adolescent development, financial literacy, educational and career success and healthy life skills—so that young people learn the skills they need to make healthy decisions.

 

Public Opinion and Public Health Expertise

According to the results of a 2005-2006 nationally representative survey of U.S. adults published in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, more than eight in 10 respondents support comprehensive sex education.  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.  In contrast, a 2003 poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 15 percent of parents supported abstinence-only education in schools.  Furthermore, respected public health experts such as the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics all oppose government funding for abstinence-only programs on the grounds that they are ineffective and fail to give youth the tools they need to make responsible decisions.  The Institute of Medicine has called for the termination of abstinence-only programs because they represent “poor fiscal and public health policy.”

 

Action in the 112th Congress

Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act was introduced in the 112th Congress on March 15, 2011 by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) in the Senate and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) in the House.
 

What is the Current Status of the Bill?

The Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act was reintroduced in the 113th Congress in the House of Representatives by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) on December 16, 2013.


For more information, please contact legislation@hrc.org.

 

Last Updated: March 24, 2014