Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced a bill yesterday that would provide $206 million a year in grant money to states for comprehensive, medically accurate, and science-based sex education. The bill, called the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act, would create a grant-giving program to be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. Grant recipients would receive funds to teach young people about the risks of being sexually active as well as prevention of pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases.
“The REAL Act is a step in a more effective direction,” Senator Lautenberg said. “It brings sex education up-to-date in a way that will reflect the serous issues and real life situations millions of children find themselves in every year.” Currently, the federal government provides no funding for comprehensive sex education. The REAL Act, if passed, will match the amount of funding for comprehensive sex education to the amount the federal government has earmarked for abstinence-only education.
A review released by Advocates for Youth (AFY) in October 2004 on the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education in ten state programs found that they have shown no long-term success in impacting the sexual behavior of teens. Specifically, abstinence-only programs do not have a long-term effect in delaying the initiation of sexual activity among teens or in reducing their risk-taking sexual behavior. In addition, an ongoing study funded by the Texas Department of Health has shown no strong evidence of program effect, as more students in the study engaged in sexual activity after receiving abstinence education than before.