The end of the Bush era may signal the end of the "abstinence-only" approach to sex education programs. Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York hopes to end the failing programs with the "Prevention First Act."
Slaughter, who is sponsoring the act along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, aims to shift the focus from a "no sex, no pregnancy" mentality to a much more realistic teaching method that encourages young people to make safe, responsible choices. "We believe the amount of money that goes into [abstinence-only education] would be so much better used on things to prevent unwanted pregnancies," Slaughter says, "I think we'll have enough votes to deal with it." Currently, about 176 million dollars is spent on abstinence-only education, and studies have shown that the programs simply don't work.
The Prevention First Act would push for realistic, open education, with the mentality that teens need more that the words "don't" in order to properly prepare themselves, mentally and physically, for sexual activity. Contraception, medically accurate information, would be discussed, providing kids with realistic options. The act also seeks to improve public awareness of emergency contraception, ensure that rape victims are provided with proper information and emergency contraception options, and to force insurance companies to provide women with proper coverage regarding contraception.
According to Slaughter, a compromise, where in abstinence-only education is also offered to kids, would be unacceptable. "We can't have both, because abstinence-only doesn't work," Slaughter says.
Sarah Brown of The National Coalition to Prevent Teen And Unplanned Pregnancy agrees, and notes that in such tough economic times, the country can't afford to keep spending millions and millions of dollars on programs that have been proven to be ineffective. "In a highly constrained fiscal environment, it's critical to focus precious dollars on programs that have evidence of good effects," Brown says, "When you look at the best science, the abstinence-only programs come up short."