Illinois Congressman Randy Hultgren, elected in the tea party wave of 2010 and an opponent of what he calls "the Obama's administration's out-of-control spending", wants to create a new federal program to spend half a billion dollars to educate teenagers about reasons not have sex before marriage.
In a speech on the House floor Monday, Hultgren complained about the lack of funding for the abstinence-only approach to sexual health education. "Currently there is a troubling 16-1 federal funding disparity between contraceptive-centered education and risk-avoidance education," he said.
For decades, the federal government only funded sexual education programs that focused on abstinence. That changed in 2010 after a a five-year, $375 million grant divided among 28 programs that were "proven to lower the pregnancy rate among participants." The policy took a holistic approach to reducing pregnancy rates among teens.
Hultgren isn't happy with the results, pointing to a recent CDC report that found "young adults" made up 50% of STD infections. What he ignored was the CDC's own advice on reducing teen pregnancy, which it put together with the help of the Health and Human Services Department's Office of Adolescent Health:
- Include evidence-based sex education that provides accurate information and supports the needs of teens throughout their development.
- Include efforts to help parents and teens communicate effectively with each other.
- Ensure sexually active teens have access to effective and affordable contraceptives.
The CDC also found that in the year after federal funding for comprehensive sexual health education took effect, the teen pregnancy rate dropped. "While reasons for the declines are not clear, teens seem to be less sexually active, and more of those who are sexually active seem to be using birth control than in previous years," according to the CDC's data.
Hultgren must think abstinence-only education is pretty important if he's willing to support it in spite of strong evidence that it will be more helpful.
Given the his votes against spending money on major bills like Sandy relief, and just last week, the Violence Against Women Act, Hultgren has placed a high priority on the new approach to sexual health.