President Barack Obama may be on his way out the door in less than a year, but he’s still willing to take one final swing at abstinence-only education before he leaves. In his 2017 budget proposal, the president has eliminated a $10 million grant earmarked for abstinence-only education in public schools. Instead, the proposal reallocates some of that money to other more effective programs like the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.
Sadly, the budget proposal by no means indicates that sex-education is done in America. States – and I think you know which ones – can still choose to assign their own tax dollars to these programs, they would just have to fund them without the assistance of the federal program. Still, losing that federal money could be enough to dissuade states that are more on the fence on this subject to pursue more comprehensive sex-ed curriculums instead.
Most likely, however, states will still receive this federal money anyway. Obama’s budget proposal is just that – a proposal… a proposal that Congress has to approve, no less. Given the conservative majority in both the House and the Senate, it’s not all that likely the members of Congress will take Obama’s suggestions on sexual education seriously.
In fact, this latest proposal is hardly the first time Obama suggested ditching federal abstinence-only grants. He’s attempted to get rid of it repeatedly in previous budgets. Time after time, however Congress has either put the money back in their final bill or shuffled it to alternate abstinence-education programs.
It’s a shame because all of the data reviewing these programs is not encouraging. Teens in states with abstinence-only programs are 60 percent more likely to get pregnant accidentally. Moreover, students in these programs started having sex at the same age as their peers who received more extensive sexual education, and with as many partners. If they’re having the same amount of sex anyway, what is the point in not informing them about contraceptives?
Abstinence-only education started receiving federal dollars thanks to President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Since then, the money for these programs has steadily increased, even growing “exponentially” during President George W. Bush’s tenure. Despite a wealth of evidence to suggest that this educational approach is unsuccessful back in the early 2000s, it wasn’t until Obama took office that anyone tried to pull funding.
Parents and politicians can pretend all they want that teenagers won’t have sex if they tell them not to, but that doesn’t make it true. It’s bogus to allocate tens of millions of dollars to educational programs that don’t work just to fuel people’s willful delusions.
Hopefully, Obama’s abstinence-only budget slashing will defeat the odds and be accepted by Congress. If not, may the next president continue to push to ensure all students have access to comprehensive sexual education so that they can make smart and healthy decisions for themselves moving forward.
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