March 09, 2017
President Obama wasn't just opposed to abstinence -- he practiced it when it came to funding conservative sex ed. For eight years, he poured millions of dollars down the drain of "comprehensive" sex education, unraveling President Bush's positive progress on teen pregnancy in the process. After two terms of Obama's "if-it-feels-good-do-it" approach, most experts agree he accomplished one thing: making the situation worse. "Compared with their peers," a 2016 study found, "teenagers in the [government's programs] were more likely to begin having sex... and more likely to get pregnant." And it's no wonder. The curriculum is so extreme that 40 percent of young people actually said they felt more pressure to engage in sex from their sex ed classes than from their boyfriends or girlfriends! Like so many of the failed programs and policies of the Obama administration, the federal government needs to return to an approach that a) either empowers parents to decide what their children are taught and/or b) includes proven abstinence-based programs that respect and value teens.
Today, with our friends at Ascend, FRC co-hosted a special Hill briefing aimed at "Rethinking Sex Ed" in public policy. In late 2015, when none of President Obama's strategies were working, Congress agreed to a modest $10 million bump in grants for the kinds of sexual risk avoidance (SRA) messaging that families want. But, as Ascend points out, 90 cents of every federal sex ed dollar still goes to programs that not only normalize -- but encourage -- early intimacy. That doesn't make financial sense, not when as many as 60 percent of teenagers are willing to wait, and certainly not when parents on both sides of the political spectrum prefer SRA lessons over the risk reduction that Planned Parenthood and other liberal groups preach. As Valerie Huber points out, "In an increasingly sexualized culture, ALL youth, regardless of where they come from or their past sexual experience, need and deserve the information that can help them make choices to eliminate the risk."
Naturally, events like ours send people like Cecile Richards into a full-blown panic. With Congress on the verge of defunding the group in health care, they can't stand the competition for their other federal gravy train: liberal sex ed. Let's not forget: Planned Parenthood doesn't make any money encouraging abstinence. Its strategy is to make sex appealing to young people so that they'll be the next wave of contraception users. Then, when the birth control it provides fails (as the group expects it will), those same teenagers become the next generation of abortion consumers. Right now, their monopoly on liberal sex ed isn't just profitable -- it's also a down payment on future business. That might explain why Richards went on the offensive with an op-ed in The Hill slamming our briefing with congressional staff.
Desperate to protect her funding, her staff tells a whopper right off the bat. "First, almost no abstinence-only program which has undergone rigorous evaluation has been shown to have any effect on young people's behavior." What does she call the Centers for Disease Control's groundbreaking report this past December? The government's own agency found that teaching kids to save sex for marriage doesn't just spare them from pregnancy and disease -- but a whole host of other health risks! Students in grades 9-12 who made good decisions about sex were just as likely (or more!) to make other positive choices -- from bike helmet and seat belt use to substance abuse, diet, doctor's visits, exercise, and even tanning bed use. Obviously, the values our teenagers hold have a much bigger impact on the rest of their lives than most people realized. And in this case, one good decision leads to another.
That might matter to an organization with teenagers' best interests at heart. Instead, Planned Parenthood's Leslie Cantor ignores the data and tries to paint SRA as a "failed policy." "We can all agree that learning about abstinence and delaying sex is an important part of any pregnancy prevention or sex education program," she writes. If that's true, they certainly have an interesting way of showing it! Not only is Planned Parenthood's curriculum virtually silent on risk avoidance, but Cantor just spent 840 words discrediting the same approach she claims to embrace! The bottom line for Planned Parenthood is their bottom line. When abortion is your biggest moneymaker, then there's nothing that hurts business more than teenagers waiting to have sex.
Right now, America is at a crossroads. Our public policy should reinforce not only what parents and students want -- but what's healthiest for children. And Americans may disagree about the effectiveness of birth control, but every study says the same thing about abstinence: the kids who practice it don't get diseases and don't get pregnant!
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.