Urge the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate and President Obama to pass the Responsible Education About Life Act in the 112th session of congress.
What is the Responsible Education About Life Act (H.R. 1551/S.611)?
The Responsible Education About Life Act (REAL), (H.R. 1551/S.611), was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA9) and U.S. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), in the 112th session of congress. It is a bill that would provide federal funding for states to implement comprehensive approaches to sex education in the schools-approaches that include information about both abstinence and contraception and condoms, from perspectives of both values and public health.
Among the requirements for a program funded under REAL are that it be age-appropriate and medically accurate, stress abstinence as the only sure way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and provide information about the health benefits and side effects of all contraceptives. REAL would ensure that taxpayer dollars are used appropriately by requiring evaluation of all programs receiving grant money by both the Secretary of Health and Human Services and individual states.
Under the REAL Act, a program of sex education is a program that:
-Is age-appropriate and medically accurate;
-Stresses the value of abstinence while not ignoring young people who have had or are having sex;
-Provides accurate information about the health benefits and side effects of all contraceptives and barrier methods used a) as a means to prevent pregnancy, and b) to reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV;
-Encourages family communication between parent and child about sexuality;
-Teaches young people the skills to make responsible decisions about sexuality, including how to avoid unwanted verbal, physical, and sexual advances and how to avoid making verbal, physical, and sexual advances that are not wanted by the other party;
-Explores the components of healthy relationships, including the prevention of dating and sexual violence;
-Teaches young people how alcohol and drug use can affect responsible decision making; and
-Does not teach or promote religion.
The REAL Act also contains non-discrimination language that would prohibit any program receiving funds under this Act from discrimination based on "sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
What are abstinence-only programs? Why are they bad?
Abstinence-Only Programs teach abstinence as the only morally correct option of sexual expression for teenagers. They usually censor information about the health benefits of contraception and condoms for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancy.
However, numerous studies have demonstrated that abstinence-only programs are inaccurate and ineffective. For example, a 2007 study conducted for the Department of Health and Human Services by an independent research firm found that youth who participated in abstinence-only programs are no more likely to abstain from sex, delay sex, delay initiation of sex, or have fewer sexual partners than youth who receive no sex education at all.
Furthermore, respected public health experts such as the Institute of Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Medical Association 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.
What is Comprehensive Sex Education? Why is it good?
Comprehensive Sex Education teaches about abstinence as the best method for avoiding STIs and unintended pregnancy, but also teaches about condoms and contraception to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and of infection with STIs, including HIV. It also teaches interpersonal and communication skills and helps young people explore their own values, goals, and options.
Comprehensive Sex Education ensures that young people are would be educated and informed with medically accurate information about abstinence, contraception and disease prevention. These programs supply young people with the tools to make informed decisions, resist peer pressure, set goals, manage stress, be responsible, understand and accept diversity, build healthy relationships and have access to up-to-date information about how they can protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.
In addition, dozens of comprehensive sex education, teen pregnancy prevention, and HIV prevention programs have been proven effective by rigorous evaluation at helping young people delay sex, have fewer sexual partners, and use contraception and condoms when they do choose to become sexually active.
Currently, there are three federal funding streams for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, but no source of federal dollars to support comprehensive sexuality education. Since 1996, Congress has spent almost $1.5 billion on abstinence-only programs, which are prohibited by law from discussing contraceptive use and which, by design, exclude lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth because marriage is unavailable to them in most parts of the country. Furthermore, numerous studies have demonstrated that they are inaccurate and ineffective.
However, the REAL Act will provide Comprehensive Sex Education. By passing the REAL Act, it will help young people make smart, and healthy decisions when it comes to sex, and will helped them be informed about safe sex.
How to help
Please call and/or write your U.S. Representatives and Senators, and President Obama and tell them to pass the Responsible Education About Life Act in the 112th session of congress.
Also please sign the online petition below.