Responsible Education About Life Act - REAL (S. 972 and H.R. 1653)
Introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
What it is
Why you should support it
For more information
What it is>>
The Responsible Education About Life Act – or REAL – is a bill that would provide $50 million annually to states for comprehensive sexuality education programs that
- are age appropriate and medically accurate;
- stress the value of abstinence while not ignoring those young people who have had or are having sexual intercourse;
- provide information about the health benefits and side effects of all contraceptive and barrier methods used to prevent pregnancy and/or to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted disease, including HIV/AIDS;
- encourage family communication between parent and child about sexuality;
- teach young people the skills to make responsible decisions about sexuality, including how to avoid unwanted verbal, physical, and sexual advances and how to avoid making verbal, physical, and sexual advances that are not wanted by the other party;
- develop healthy relationships, including the prevention of dating and sexual violence;
- teach young people how alcohol and drug use can affect responsible decision making; and
- do not teach or promote religion.
Currently there are no federal funds available for comprehensive sexuality education programs – only for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. If passed, programs funded under this law will supply young people with the tools to make informed decisions, resist peer pressure, set goals, manage stress, be responsible, understand and accept diversity, build healthy relationships, and have access to up-to-date information about how they can protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.
Programs funded under this law would be prohibited from discriminating against individuals discriminate on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Over the past 10 years, more than $1.5 billion in federal and state funding have been provided to failed abstinence-only education programs that fall far short of meeting the needs of young people. In order to receive federal abstinence-only funding, grantees must agree to exclude information about the health benefits of contraception to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases from their educational programs. Currently, there is no federal appropriation designated for comprehensive sexuality education.
Why you should support it>>
have a right to complete information on sexual and reproductive health. This right is
recognized in international agreements, beginning in 1994, that call for
young people to have in formal and non-formal schooling, education about
population and health issues. This
includes sexual and reproductive health issues to promote the well-being
of adolescents, enhance gender equality and equity as well as responsible
sexual behavior, protect them from early and unwanted pregnancy, sexually
transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, and sexual abuse, incest and
violence. The REAL Act would be a step forward in ensuring that American young
people have access to quality, comprehensive sexuality education.
sex ed benefits young people. Strong evidence exists that young people
who receive comprehensive sexuality education become sexually active later
than other teens, have fewer partners, and are more likely to use
contraceptives when they do have sex.
This is why half of the states have opted out of
requesting funding from the federal government for abstinence-only-until
programs are not effective. Studies have shown that teenagers who
receive abstinence-only education are less likely to delay sexual activity
and less likely to use contraceptives when they do become sexually active
than teens who receive comprehensive sex education. One study revealed
that 88 percent of students who made "virginity pledges" (a
common feature in abstinence-only programs) wound up having sex before
marriage. The study also showed that the students who took virginity
pledges were more likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection than
those who did not take the pledges.
More and more evidence has mounted that these investments in
abstinence only programs do not improve the well being of young people.
programs contain misleading, biased, and inaccurate information. A
Congressional report found that two-thirds of the federally funded
abstinence-only programs contained misleading or inaccurate information
about contraception, genetics, and sexually transmitted infections. Many
of them misrepresent scientific data on contraceptive effectiveness by
comparing "perfect use" statistics on abstinence to "typical
use" statistics on condoms and other forms of contraception. Some
even teach that exposure to sweat and tears are risk factors for HIV
transmission, caution that 5 to 10 percent of women who have legal
abortions will become sterile, and present the view that life begins at
conception as undisputed scientific fact.
In October 2006, the non-partisan US Government Accountability
Office informed the Department of Health and Human Services that it is in
violation of federal law for failing to enforce a requirement
that federally funded grantees must provide medically accurate information
about the effectiveness of condoms.
programs promote gender stereotypes. One
federally-funded curriculum instructs: "Women gauge their happiness
and judge their success by their relationships. Men's happiness and
success hinge on their accomplishments." Sex Respect, an
abstinence-only curriculum taught in Ohio, includes the following workbook
text: "A guy who wants to respect girls is distracted by sexy clothes
and remembers her for one thing. Is it fair that guys are turned on by
their senses and women by their hearts?"
programs ignore lesbian, gay, and sexually active youth. By identifying
marriage as the only context in which sexual activity is acceptable,
abstinence-only programs discriminate against lesbian and gay youth living
in states where same-sex marriage is illegal. Further, such programs are
of negligible value to the 44 percent of U.S. adolescents in grades
9-12 who are already sexually active, not to mention those who are already
This bill was introduced in both the House and
the Senate on March 17, 2009, by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Learn more by
seeing the full text of the bill and a complete list of
Right now, we need to build strong bipartisan support for this legislation
in the House and Senate. Help ensure that all young people have access to
critical health information and services.
Senators today and ask them to co-sponsor the REAL Act (S 611).
Representative today and ask them to co-sponsor the REAL
Act (H.R. 768).
For more information>>
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Civil Liberties Union
The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs
Advocates for Youth
Evaluation of Abstinence Education Programs Funded Under Section V, Title 510
Report on Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in Ohio