This May, Planned Parenthood has partnered with Power to Decide, Advocates for Youth, SIECUS, Healthy Teen Network, the Guttmacher Institute, to rename Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month to Sex Ed For All: Youth Power, Information, and Rights Month. This change acknowledges that young people’s sexual health needs go beyond pregnancy prevention and that a focus on “teen pregnancy prevention” contributes to stigma around pregnant and parenting youth. The new name makes it clear that all young people deserve access to sex education.
Young people deserve to have the information, resources, and skills they need to protect their health and build their future—without shame or judgment. Sex education is essential to young people’s health, relationships, and life goals, and has a proven track record of helping them develop the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy decisions about their relationships, their health, and their future. Ideally, sex education should be culturally specific and taught each school year by a trained educator. It should also teach a broad variety of topics around sex, bodies, identities, and relationships, and allow students to explore their values and beliefs and practice the skills they need to navigate relationships, protect their health, and plan their future.
There is a huge lack of queer specific sex education for young people, which damages both LGBTQ youth, who are left without critical health information, and their peers who miss the opportunity to learn accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQ youth deserve sex education that addresses their identities and experiences, so that they have the information and skills they need to stay healthy. Sex education that is LGBTQ-inclusive also provides young people with opportunities to understand sexual orientation and gender identity in open, non-stigmatizing ways.
Sex education is about more than preventing unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. The education you receive around critical topics like sex and relationship should not depend on your zip code. That’s why we support policies that require schools to teach comprehensive sex education so that students have access to the full range of topics and skills they need to navigate sex and relationships.
More than 90% of parents support sex education that includes information on a variety of topics like birth control, healthy relationships, abstinence, and sexual orientation. Programs that include lessons on both abstinence and birth control have a better track record of helping young people wait to have sex until they’re ready. Abstinence education and skill-building around saying no to sex are important parts of any good sex education program, but abstinence-only sex ed is not adequate education. Access to comprehensive sex education has proven critical to helping teens stay safe and healthy.
The Trump-Pence administration is trying to change policies and dismantle effective sex education programs—and it’s putting young people at risk. The administration has tried to remake the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program into a “sexual risk avoidance” program that promotes an extreme, abstinence-only-until-marriage ideology. Research confirms that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs withhold critical information from young people, leaving them at risk. These programs may also promote harmful and stigmatizing information, especially for students who are sexually active or have experienced sexual assault. Withholding critical, possibly life-saving information about STIs and HIV puts young people’s health and futures at risk.
Establishing this sexual risk avoidance program would disproportionately harm communities with high rates of unintended teen pregnancy, youth of color, families living in rural areas, and youth who already face enough structural barriers in accessing information or health care. This is bad policy—period.
As the nation’s largest provider of sex education, Planned Parenthood is committed to helping young people stay safe and healthy, working every day to make sure young people get developmentally appropriate, LGBTQ-inclusive information, skills, and answers to their questions about sex and relationships, without shame or judgment.
Today’s technology makes it possible to reach young people who aren’t receiving enough sex education in schools, and can help to supplement the education that young people are receiving. In fact, Planned Parenthood’s new sexual health chatbot, Roo, is designed to help teens get personalized health information instantly—24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Young people can ask Roo their burning questions about their health, their body, relationships, or getting care at Planned Parenthood, or choose from a list of questions, and get the answers they need within seconds, day or night. Planned Parenthood is here to help–no matter who you are or where you live.
Every day, young people turn to Planned Parenthood for the information and skills they need to help them make decisions about their bodies, relationships, and sexual health. This Sex Ed For All Month, we must remember that young people who have access to sex education have more power to plan their futures the way they want and achieve their dreams and reaffirm our commitment to supporting comprehensive sex education.