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What is the REAL Act?

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sex education

sex education

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Question: What is the REAL Act?
In 1996 the Clinton administration introduced the idea of abstinence-only education. When Bush took office in 2000, he massively expanded the program. As a result teens have been subject to a lot of inaccurate propaganda. Though it has been stalled in committee for years, if it passes, a sex education bill called the REAL Act could actually help teens stay safe.
Answer:

The REAL Act stands for Responsible Education About Life Act. Its goal is: "To provide for the reduction of adolescent pregnancy, HIV rates, and other sexually transmitted diseases, and for other purposes."

What Will it Do?

The organization Advocates for Youth explains that, the REAL Act would fund programs with important characteristics, including:

  • Being age-appropriate and medically accurate;
  • Not teaching or promoting religion;
  • Teaching that abstinence is the only certain way to avoid pregnancy or sexual transmission of diseases;
  • Stressing the value of abstinence while not ignoring young people who have had or are having sex;
  • Providing accurate information about the health benefits and side effects of all contraceptives and barrier methods as a means to prevent pregnancy;
  • Providing information about the health benefits of condoms and other barrier methods as a means to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV;
  • Encouraging family communication about sexuality;
  • Teaching skills for making responsible decisions about sex, including how to avoid unwanted verbal, physical, and sexual advances and how not to make unwanted verbal, physical, and sexual advances; and
  • Teaching that alcohol and drug use can affect the ability to make responsible decision's

What's the Hold-Up

The REAL Act, has been stalled in committee since 2001 when it was first opposed by many Republicans. It was reintroduced in the house in March 2007, but it never got voted on. In February 2009, it was again introduced, and this time with some really positive additions, some which could specifically benefit gay teens.

Why GLBT Teens Should Care About the REAL Act

For many years, teens around the country have been subjected to abstinence-only-until-heterosexual-marriage programs. These are federally funded programs that runs in schools around the country. In addition to ignoring information about condoms, birth control and sexual expression, abstinence-only education excludes gay teens and teaches that the only place to have sex is in a heterosexual marriage. Many programs are specifically barred from even teaching about sexual orientation at all!

The REAL Act would not be bound by such limitations and would be able to provide accurate and relevant information to teens of all sexual orientations.

In fact, the latest version of the Act includes language stating that school sex education programs funded through the REAL Act, “shall not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

What You Can Do

If you would like to tell congress to fund comprehensive sex education through the REAL Act, you can do so here.

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