Real Education for Healthy Youth Act
Abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs exclude, or even denigrate, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) students. These programs are prohibited by law from discussing contraceptive use and exclude by design LGBTQ youth. 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 more than $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 (REHYA) 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.
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. The Senate version of the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act would also eliminate federal funding for harmful abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, instead reprograming the funding to support the new comprehensive grant program.
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. 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. 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.”
A Call to Action
In December 2015, 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. This report, “A Call to Action: LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education,” highlights the issue of abstinence-only-until-marriage and LGBTQ-exclusive sex education and lists concrete steps to improve the state of comprehensive, LGBTQ-inclusive sex education.
What was the Status of the Bill in the 114th Congress?
The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) on March 26, 2015, and in the Senate by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) on April 7, 2016 but was not voted on in the 114th Congress.
What is the Current Status of the Bill?
The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act has not yet been reintroduced in the 115th Congress.
Last Updated: January 4, 2017