Real Education for Healthy Youth Act

H.R. 725; S. 372

The Problem

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 states.  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.   Despite a wealth of evidence indicating that comprehensive sex education is most effective in delaying sexual intercourse, increasing condom and contraceptive use and reducing the number of partners among teens, Congress has spent almost $1.5 billion on abstinence-only programs since 1996.


What is the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act?

The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act would 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.  Funding would also be provided for teacher training on sex education.  The bill would require, rather than merely encourage, inclusiveness of LGBT youth in sex education.  It would also prohibit federal funding of programs that are insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of LGBT youth.

The goals of the legislation include preventing 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.


Public Opinion and Public Health Expertise

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.  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.  By contrast, a 2003 poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 15 percent of parents support abstinence-only education in schools.  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.”


What is the Current Status of the Bill?

The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act was reintroduced in the 113th Congress in the House by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and in the Senate by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) on February 14, 2013.


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Last Updated: March 24, 2014