The Trump Administration Is Resurrecting Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Programs — And Young People Will Suffer For It

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The Hill reports that the Trump administration has begun reversing comprehensive sex ed programs instated under former President Barack Obama, instead choosing to fund and promote abstinence-only programs in an attempt to curb teen pregnancies:

So far, the administration has encouraged organizations applying for Title X federal family planning funds to include in their programs a “meaningful emphasis” on “the benefits of avoiding sex” when communicating with adolescents and to use programs that don’t “normalize sexual risk behaviors.”

The Trump administration also plans to release its first report early this summer as part of a $10 million research project looking at ways to improve sex education programs, with a focus on the impact of “sexual delay.”

And [Department of Health and Human Services] officials last year cut short federal grants for organizations participating in former President Obama’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, which supporters of abstinence-only education have said is ineffective.

Call it abstinence, call it sExUaL dElAy, call it whatever you want, but the fact of the matter remains: Simply telling people to not have sex does not prevent pregnancies or stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases — in fact, it may do just the opposite.

According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.literally zero studies in professional, peer-reviewed publications have deemed abstinence-only programs effective. 

One group of researchers took that argument even further last fall in the Journal of Adolescent Health, claiming that such programs are not only ineffective but unethical, as they often withhold essential information.

"[Such a program] violates the principle of beneficence (i.e., do good and avoid harm) as it may cause an adolescent to use ineffective (or no) protection against pregnancy and STIs," the researchers wrote. "Similarly, government programs providing abstinence as a sole option are ethically problematic, as they exclude accurate information about contraception and misinform by overemphasizing or misstating the risks of contraception."

Abstinence-only programs also tend to be steeped in misogyny and homophobia: A 2004 report on these programs prepared for House Democrats drew direct examples from abstinence-only curricula assignments that highlighted just how harmful these programs are to women and girls.

"One curriculum teaches that men are sexually aggressive and lack deep emotions," the report concluded. "In a chart of the top five women’s and men’s basic needs, the curriculum lists 'sexual fulfillment' and 'physical attractiveness' as two of the top five 'needs' in the men’s section. 'Affection,' 'Conversation,' 'Honesty and Openness,' and 'Family Commitment' are listed only as women’s needs."

These stereotypes have been found to contribute to attitudes that lead to domestic violence.

Despite all of this readily available information, the Trump administration seems intent on promoting abstinence-only education — something that's garnered it praise from the Family Research Council, a Southern Poverty Law Center designated anti-LGBT hate group.

"We definitely are seeing a shift," FRC government affairs legislative assistant Kelly Marcum told The Hill. "We’re really excited to see that the administration is giving some tools back to us to keep pushing that fight."

If that fight is to see more teens becoming parents, more young women being diagnosed with cervical cancer, and a wider spread of dangerous gender stereotypes, then I guess they're on the right track.

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LINDSEY WEEDSTON

Lindsey Weedston is NOT a social justice warrior. Clearly, her class is bard, with extra points in stealth and a little taken out of charisma. She's also a HUGE nerd, and can often be found gushing about video games. She even participated in a LARPing exercise once. Not nerdy enough to know what that is? Google it. You'll see.

Lindsey is a life-long feminist and writer and likes to color in adult coloring books with gel pens. She writes on LGBT+ and mental health issues, and will ruin your favorite childhood TV show with her feminism. Nothing you love is safe. Have a nice day!

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