Thursday, July 10, 2008

Abstaining From "Abstinence-Only"

If you want to know what the world looks like from the perspective of an LGBTQ student in the schools – think what it must be like to be in a school that teaches abstinence-only until marriage. And, unless you live in Massachusetts or California, you can’t get married. In truth, what is taught is not abstinence but absence; you do not even make it into the curriculum. Your health needs are not addressed and your feelings are not connected to any real information, let alone helpful guides to healthy decision making. That is why it is so critical that we move away from abstinence–only education and embrace comprehensive sexuality education that recognizes the need for real information to be given to students so that they can make informed healthy choices.

A recent Associated Press article reports that in fact it is now “mainstream” to reject the federal government's Title V funding to do abstinence-only education. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have rejected the funding source. Iowa and Arizona have announced that they will reject the money after the end of the current fiscal year. That is a sea-change from 2005 when only California refused this federal funding source.

And yet, Congress is actually discussing a year-long extension of the program. Despite the fact that research released by Mathematica (a firm contracted by the Government to do independent analysis) found that in fact abstinence–only was not working.

This is not a philosophical discussion. In the real world, evidence should win out. And the evidence is in – through Mathematica’s research, and the fact that states are voting with their feet and walking away from federal funding. Let support all our youth by making sure they get a real education which includes comprehensive sexuality education where everyone is recognized.

-Suzanne Greenfield

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