President Obama is finally getting around to items on his (and our) progressive liberal bucket-list in this, his final year as President of the United States. This week, Obama released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2017, and in it, he got to tick the sex-education box on his honey-do list.
If Obama’s budget is passed intact, the federal grants for abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools will be eliminated — to the tune of $75 million per year of grant money no longer being allotted to serve up misinformation and Puritanical prudishness to our teenagers. The damage done by these abstinence curricula has been devastating, especially for teenage girls getting pregnant in record numbers and both girls and guys contracting STDs.
Abstinence-Only Sex Ed has been proven time and time again to be ineffective at preventing teenagers from ignoring their normal, pubescent urges to have sex; all the while, it does not teach about birth control or use of condoms and little to nothing about sexually transmitted diseases. Several studies have confirmed that abstinence-only sexual education is a waste of time and taxpayers’ money (here and here). In fact, over $2 billion has been spent on abstinence programs in schools. And while a handful of studies points to a delay of sexual activity amongst middle school students, no abstinence-only program has proven to fully prevent sexual activity for this vulnerable group of kids, with one-third of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders engaging in sex. (Just to clarify, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders are 11 to 13 years old. Yes, you read that correctly.)
Side Note: A couple of years ago, my teenage daughter was to take Sex Ed in her sophomore year of high school. I was infuriated when the school established a poll so parents could choose whether to have an Abstinence/Regular Sex Ed program or an Abstinence-Only program. The fact that the school would even consider an abstinence-only sex ed curriculum equated to dereliction of duty, in my mind. I, along with many other parents, vehemently protested an abstinence-only program, most notably because my state of Mississippi has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the United States. The result was an Abstinence/Regular Sex Education course that still left much to be desired, particularly for me, a feminist and sexuality advocate. Over the course of the class, I was dismayed to learn the incorrect anatomy and one-sided approach that catered to guys the course taught, but that is fodder for another day.
For now, Obama has used his 2017 budget to stand up once again for women, girls, and our right to solid information on our bodies as well as to normalize the topic of birth control. The real test will be when the budget is presented to Congress — will the obstructionist, GOP-controlled Congress drag their heels on this as they do so many of Obama’s efforts? Only time will tell. If they do, please remember to vote blue in November.