While Trump’s budget for the U.S. government highlights immigration policies and education cuts, the budget’s increase of funding for abstinence education in public schools has gone almost unnoticed. The Extend Abstinence Education and Personal Responsibility Education Program teaches students about the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases through abstinence. With a $116 million increase for abstinence teaching by 2020 and Trumpcare’s proposition to defund Planned Parenthood, what will sex education look like in the Trump era?
Trumpcare, or the American Health Care Act, prohibits funding for any organization “that primarily engages in family planning services, reproductive health, and related medical care.” Though the GOP often works to end abortion services, they seem to disregard the main cause of unwanted pregnancy: uninformed or unsafe sex practices.
Currently, only 24 states require sex education in public schools, and while individuals ages 15–24 make up only a fourth of the sexually active population, they represent half of new annual STI cases. Puberty can be a confusing time, but it doesn’t have to be if we speak openly and plainly about sexuality and safe sex practices. All public schools should be required to provide accurate information to all students. Comprehensive sex education helps teens and young adults make informed and responsible decisions regarding their sexual behaviors and health. Reliable sex education also encourages positive sexual relationships by teaching the importance of communication and consent.
However, abstinence education does the exact opposite. Abstinence-only education has proven time and time again to be ineffective in reducing unwanted pregnancy. Teaching abstinence often perpetuates misinformation and arguably religious ideas, such as the value of female virginity and the sanctity of marriage. Abstinence-only education leads to more unintended pregnancies because abstinence is unattainable. Comprehensive sex education teaches not only abstinence, but also about other ways to prevent pregnancy, such as forms of reliable birth control and safe-sex practices.
California began teaching abstinence-based education while also teaching other forms of contraceptives. Teenage pregnancies dropped 74 percent. In Texas, where abstinence-only education is primarily taught, more than half of all pregnancies were unintended in 2010. Why is it that California’s pregnancy rate dropped with a more rounded education system, but Texas’ pregnancy rate remains the same? Comprehensive sex ed.
With the Trump administration wishing to encourage abstinence education and remove accessibility to clinics such as Planned Parenthood, this is a recipe for a national family planning disaster. We must provide all citizens with the proper sex education and family planning options they need. Senators are looking to vote on AHCA on June 29. Call your senators and let them know that you want to live in a country that encourages responsible and comprehensive family planning and sex education.