When Politics Trumps Research: An Interview With Julia Fedor

4 Oct

Abstinence only education programs have never been shown to be effective in preventing teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. After researching effective sex education for 30 years, research scientist Douglas Kirby found the most effective programs to prevent teen pregnancies and STDs are those that combine encouragement of abstinence with education about contraceptives and how to avoid STDs.

Yet, the government continues to put more funding into this failed method of education as a political compromise according to Julia Fedor, founder of progressive social media consulting company Broad Communications, organizer of the Chicago Female Condom Campaign (Put a Ring On It!), and former Public Policy Coordinator for the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health.

What You Need To Know About Sex Education Funding

Sex education became a political issue in the 1980s as HIV and teen pregnancies began to rise. In 1996, conservative groups have secured $50 million per year on Abstinance only education through the Title V Abstinence Education Program. Under Title V, states that apply and receive Abstinence-only funding, must implement programs that fit under the following criteria:

An eligible abstinence education program is one that:

A) has as its exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity;

B) teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school-age children;

C) teaches that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems;

D) teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity;

E) teaches that sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects;

F) teaches that bearing children out-of-wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society;

G) teaches young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increase vulnerability to sexual advances; and

H) teaches the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity.

Source: U.S. Social Security Act, §510(b)(2).

In other words, schools that receive Title V funding, must teach that sex outside of marriage has harmful social, psychological, and physical consequences (proven by research to be not true) and completely avoid teaching about any kind of contraceptives or non-heterosexual relationships.

Congress ended the Title V funding in December 2009 after spending over $160 million on Abstinence Only Education. Unfortunately, this was not the end of the Title V funding. This funding was resurrected in March 2010 as a leverage to pass the Healthcare reform. However, along with the $250 million over 5 years on funding under Title V was included $375 million over 5 years for comprehensive sex education funding under the new Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP).

Under the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) funding, schools must implement sexual education programs that are evidence- based and address both abstinence and contraception as well as include information on adult preparation topics such as healthy relationships. Check out Choice USA’s awesome Sex Factsheet Infographic to learn more.

What You Can Do

Currently, 42 States plus Washington, D.C. have applied for the PREP Comprehensive Sexual Education funding while 30 States applied for Abstinence Only Title V funding. Some states, such as Illinois, have rejected Abstinence Only funding.

New federal legislation was introduced to repeal the Title V funding once and for all. Here is what you can do according to Choice USA to help research and truth triumph over politics:

  • Send an email to your Representative and Senators and urge them to co-sponsor the legislation.
  • Find your Representative and Senators on Facebook, ‘like’ them and post this message on their wall: “As a young person, I know that abstinence-only education is failing my generation. Please co-sponsor S. 3878/ H.R. 6283 and give the failed Title V Abstinence-Only Program the boot.”
  • Find your Representative and Senators’ Twitter handle and tweet “@Representative/ Senator, ab-only education doesn’t work. Please co-sponsor S. 3878/ H.R. 6283 and give the failed Title V Abstinence-Only Program the boot.”

So what’s the future of sex education? Julia personally believes that each community should be able to decide what kind of comprehensive sexual education to teach adolescents. So a community that has a teen pregnancy problem should focus on pregnancy prevention, while a community that has a rise of STDs should focus its sex education on STD prevention.

What do you think?

Article image via Feministe.

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