Friday, October 24, 2008

From A-Z’s to the Birds & the Bees

In the U.S. President Bush proposes that funding for abstinence-only programs reach $270 million by 2009 (could January come any sooner?). This is an enormous amount of taxpayer funds to support programs that have been scientifically proven ineffective. To date 16 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming) have declined funding for such programs, yet the government’s position on the issue remains the same: abstinence-only education is here to stay.

Meanwhile in the UK, the British government is bringing sex education to schools starting as soon as kindergarten! That’s right - along with learning how to read, write, and share, kindergartens in the UK will be introduced to reproduction as part of their science curriculum. Requirements as to what the lessons will specifically entail haven’t been released yet, but we do know that schools will be asked to cover age-appropriate discussions on relationships and contraception in their lesson plans. By 11 students will be taught about developing respectful relationships and how risky sexual behavior can lead to STDs and unplanned pregnancies.

I could not be more thrilled at this prospect! The sooner we begin introducing comprehensive sex education the better off we will all be! Sex is a natural part of life and everyone has a right to live a safe sexually fulfilling life at any age. This isn’t to say that I’m an advocate of kindergarteners having sex (Um no!) but I think we all too often forget that young women have the right to control their bodies and get the information necessary to make safe and healthy decisions. By remaining silent on the topic or, worse yet, delivering inaccurate information (abstinence-only programs teach that condoms don’t prevent HIV, touching someone’s genitals can cause pregnancy, having an abortion will make you infertile) we are putting young women at incredible risk. In a time when teen pregnancy rates are on the rise and the economy is in shambles, we cannot afford to waste another minute or dollar on ineffective and inaccurate abstinence-only programs.

What will it take to get government mandated comprehensive sex education in the U.S.?

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