February 5, 2015 — President Obama and some state lawmakers are looking to shift away from abstinence-only sexuality education programs toward encouraging comprehensive, evidence-based programs and teen pregnancy prevention, the International Business Times reports.
Currently, 22 states and Washington, D.C., require some form of sex education in public schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some states prioritize abstinence-only sex education, which studies have shown is not effective in preventing sexual activity among teens. Some other states use comprehensive programs that include instruction on contraceptives and relationships.
The federal government has had a "complicated" history with funding for state sex education efforts over the years, according to the Business Times (Glum, International Business Times, 2/4). Obama has sought to eliminate funding for abstinence-only programs, which were championed under the George W. Bush administration, since his 2010 budget, but Congress has continued the funding in budget deals (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/6/14). Federal money for abstinence-only programs also has flowed to states through the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148).
According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, federal funding through the Title V Abstinence Education Grant Program is scheduled to expire at the end of fiscal year 2015. Obama in his fiscal year 2016 budget did not include funding for the Title V abstinence program.
Obama's budget proposal also calls for $105 million in funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, an increase of $4 million (International Business Times, 2/4). TPPI supports programs that provide comprehensive, evidence-based sex education (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/21/11). Further, Obama's budget plan calls for $37 million in funding for the Division of Adolescent and School Health, an increase of $6 million.
Lawmakers in at least 18 states have proposed bills relating to sex education in 2015, the Business Times reports. According to the Business Times, some of the bills call for abstinence-only education, but other efforts, when combined with Obama's budget proposal, "could indicate the United States is finally shifting away from abstinence-only programs."
For example, lawmakers in Arizona (HB 2476), Hawaii (HB 459) and Texas (HB 78) have proposed measures that would emphasize waiting to have sex but also include instruction on how to be safe if they do have sex.
In addition, a Missouri bill (HB 670) would require schools to teach critical thinking and stress management skills to students as part of sex education, while legislation proposed in New Jersey could add discussions about rape for students in grades seven through 12. Further, legislation (A 1616, S 700) proposed in New York would create a grant program for funding entities that teach sex education that does not include religious elements (International Business Times, 2/4).