07 September 2010

Illinois Governor Rejects Abstinence-Only Funds, Opts for Comprehensive Sex Ed

It's nice to have proof that there's some balance in the world. Case in point: While Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was busy rejecting government funding for comprehensive sex ed programs in his state last week, the governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, decided to stand up for the rights of youth in his own.

Quinn, a Democrat, has chosen to reject all federal funding for Title V, abstinence-only programs in the state of Illinois, applying instead for nearly $2 million in funding through the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) -- a federal program that supports the teaching of comprehensive age-appropriate, medically accurate sexual health education in schools.

The Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, a Ms. Foundation grantee, released a statement late last week cheering Quinn's decision to move Illinois away from Title V (abstinence-only) funding. In that statement, they underscore what many experts already agree to be true about abstinence-only education: it simply does not work.
Abstinence-only-until marriage (AOUM) programs have been proven ineffective in reducing both youth birth rates and sexually transmitted infection rates. Moreover, according to a 2008 report published by Legal Momentum, Sex, Lies and Stereotypes, abstinence-only programs and policies are known to reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, stigmatize LGBTQ youth and families, increase public health risks, and restrict access to youth who may not have alternative sources of information. Prohibited from encouraging contraceptive use, abstinence-only programs instead distort contraceptive failure rates and disparage the idea of safer sex.
Meanwhile, the kind of comprehensive, medically accurate and age-appropriate sexual education programs supported by PREP funding gives youth the tools they actually need to make informed decisions about their sexual health.

We too applaud Governor Quinn's decision to provide the youth of Illinois with the kind of education they deserve -- the kind that empowers them to ask questions, learn the truth, and protect their own health and well-being. If only the children in every other state should be so lucky.

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