The Trump administration is giving sex educators two choices: Create a curriculum that tells teens to never have sex, or create a curriculum that tells sexually active teens to never have sex again. This will work out great, no doubt.
NBC News reported that sex education advocates are concerned that these new programs sound a lot like abstinence-only. They’re right to be concerned.
Earlier this month, the Office of Adolescent Health—part of the Department of Health and Human Services—announced contracts and grants to fund teen pregnancy prevention programs that emphasize what they’re calling sexual risk avoidance models. Sexual risk avoidance is abstinence-only, rebranded—a fresh new name for the same old shit.
One of the grant documents states, “Both risk avoidance and risk reduction approaches can and should include skills associated with helping youth delay sex as well as skills to help those youth already engaged in sexual risk to return toward risk-free choices in the future.”
Sexual risk avoidance sounds like common sense on the surface: Sex comes with plenty of risks, and those risks should be mitigated where possible. But rather than focus on where risks can be mitigated—contraception, comprehensives sex education on STIs, education around dating abuse—the programs the Trump administration seems to be prioritizing message almost exclusively around abstinence.
From NBC News:
“Applicants are expected to describe in detail how they implement protective factors and/or either elements from SMARTool or the Tool to Assess the Characteristics of Effective Sex and STD/HIV Education Programs.”
The SMARTool was developed by the Denver-based Center for Relationship Education, which developed a sex and relationship education program that criticizes contraception-focused sex education and that includes Christian and faith themes. It embraces the idea that talking about safe sex “normalizes” sexual behavior among teens.
Moving away from abstinence-only education models have been successful over the last decade, and the United States’s teen pregnancy rate is at an all-time low. But since the Trump administration’s ultimate goal is to summon a new wave of conservative policy, it’s no surprise that HHS is in its path of destruction.
Read the full NBC report here.