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Advocates for Youth and SIECUS Applaud the Introduction of the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act

Bill Would Provide Funding for Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Washington, D.C. (Thursday, March 22, 2007) – Today, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act. The bill would create federal funding, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for comprehensive sexuality education that is age-appropriate, medically accurate, and stresses abstinence, while also educating young people about contraception. 

“The REAL Act represents a return to common sense public health policy that focuses on the well-being of all young people,” said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth. “We know that teenagers who receive comprehensive sex education that includes discussions on abstinence and contraception are more likely than those who receive abstinence-only messages to delay sexual initiation, to use contraception when they do become sexually active, and to have fewer partners.”

Studies have shown that more than two-thirds of young people will have had sex by the time they graduate.  Furthermore, young people under the age of 25 have been hit by the HIV epidemic particularly hard and the rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) continues to grow among them, with teens acquiring more than four million STDs every year.  Additionally, in spite of recent decreases, there are still nearly 900,000 teen pregnancies in the U.S. each year.  It is clear that young people are in desperate need for real, accurate sexuality education.

“We have high hopes for the REAL Act,” said Joseph DiNorcia, Jr., president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).  “SIECUS is seeing policymakers finally come to realize what educators and parents have known for a long time:  that comprehensive sexuality education, not abstinence-only, makes the most sense.  Ironically, the sexuality education programs that will be funded by the REAL Act do a better job of keeping kids abstinent than the abstinence-only programs do.”

Currently there is no federal funding stream dedicated to comprehensive sexuality education programs.  Since 1982, however, the U.S. government has spent over $1.5 billion on unproven abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.  Of that money, over $800 million has been spent during just the current administration.  Under the Bush administration, there has been a continued expansion of investment in these programs with more than $175 million allocated in Fiscal Year 2007 alone.  These programs are prohibited, by law, from discussing contraceptives except in the context of failure rates and have never been proven effective. 

Programs funded by the REAL Act would also stress family communication, responsible decision-making, and negotiation skills.