Sex education legislation offers young people information and access they deserve
Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation designed to help ensure that all young people have high-quality, culturally competent sexual health information and access to the care they need to make healthy decisions. The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (REHYA) and the Youth Access to Sexual Health Services Act (YASHS) will help bridge the gap in access that existing federal funding for evidence-based sexual health education cannot meet.
The introduction of the legislation is timely for many reasons. We just launched an initiative, Sex Ed for all Month, which shines a light on the importance of all young people having the sexual health information, access and rights they need and deserve in order to make healthy decisions for themselves and live life on their terms. The effort works towards all young people having the power to access the education and health care they need to achieve the best positive outcomes for themselves. Sex Ed for All Month replaces Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.
Sex Ed for All Month also makes up part of our collective effort to help young people in marginalized populations — including communities of color, LGBTQ young people, immigrants, those with lower incomes, those living in rural areas and those in foster care — gain access to the information and care they need.
We are proud to stand alongside our sister organizations, which include Advocates for Youth, Healthy Teen Network, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) in this effort.
Our contribution to Sex Ed for All Month is #TalkingIsPower, a campaign to spark meaningful conversations about sex, love, relationships and contraception between young people and the parents, champions and allies who care about them. We encourage champions to talk early and often with the young people in their life and the campaign offers tools and resources to facilitate these conversations.
Adults are more powerful than they think in the lives of young people. Power to Decide conducted a recent poll in which respondents between age 18 and 34 told us that their schools, their parents and porn were common sources of information on matters related to sex and contraception.
We know that there are both positive and negative resources that young people can readily access for their questions related to sex and contraception. We also know that sex education comes in many forms and from many sources. Our effort to ensure schools, champions and allies are the most powerful sources in the life of a young person must include a collaborative process with the ultimate goal of ensuring young people make healthy decisions. Parents, champions and allies have the unique opportunity to act as a constant source of positive influence in the lives of young people.
The introduction of legislation is not only timely but also important to fuel the efforts underway for Sex Ed For All Month which is focused on providing resources and information young people need to make informed decisions. In addition, the legislation introduced will complement the role that champions and allies play by establishing consistent national standards for high-quality, culturally competent sexual health education. This combined effort helps ensure that young people have the resources and information they need to make informed decisions about sex, love and relationships.
Too many young people go without the sexual health information and access to the care they not only need but deserve. At Power to Decide, we believe that all young people — no matter who they are or where they live — deserve quality sexual information, access to reproductive health services and the agency and support necessary to decide if, when and under what circumstances to get pregnant and have a child. Throughout the year, Power to Decide remains committed to ensuring all young people have access to high-quality sex education in order to make informed and healthy decisions throughout their lives.
Ginny Ehrlich is CEO of Power to Decide, the campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy.