In a marked departure from the previous administration, conservatives at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are putting an emphasis on abstinence to reduce teen pregnancy rates.
So far, the administration has encouraged organizations applying for Title X federal family planning funds to include in their programs a “meaningful emphasis” on “the benefits of avoiding sex” when communicating with adolescents and to use programs that don’t “normalize sexual risk behaviors.”
The Trump administration also plans to release its first report early this summer as part of a $10 million research project looking at ways to improve sex education programs, with a focus on the impact of “sexual delay.”
And HHS officials last year cut short federal grants for organizations participating in former President Obama’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, which supporters of abstinence-only education have said is ineffective. All of those policy changes were overseen by Valerie Huber, an HHS official who had been the president of Ascend, a group previously called the National Abstinence Education Association.
Supporters of comprehensive sex ed, however, say abstinence-only programs are ineffective and ideologically motivated. They say the programs failed under the Bush administration.
“We know from a body of evidence that abstinence-only programs don’t provide a full range of medically accurate and non-stigmatized education around contraception use,” said Jesse Boyer, senior policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that opposes abstinence-only programs.
“It seems like we’re at a point where it’s more important than ever to support education that provides a full range of sexual health information and education rather than reverting back to the failed practices that we wasted more than $2 billion on over the past three decades.”
Advocates of comprehensive sex ed worry about the effect a shift toward abstinence-only education could have on plummeting teen pregnancy rates. Read more via the Hill
Family Research Council 'Really Excited' Trump Sinking Millions Into Abstinence-Only Sex Ed That Increases Teen Pregnancy
The Trump Administration Will Be Responsible for Millions of Unwanted Pregnancies
Under President Barack Obama Bush-era policies and programs that pushed failed "abstinence-only" teen sex education programs were reduced or eliminated. Obama administration agencies encouraged states to implement comprehensive sex education courses, and the rate of teen pregnancy quickly and dramatically dropped to historic lows.
Last year, the Trump administration "cut more than $200 million in federal grants to scores of organizations that work to decrease teen pregnancy rates," The Washington Post reported.
But it gets worse.
Not only is the Trump administration now unraveling the Obama administration's focus on comprehensive sex education, but it is now spending millions of dollars to bring back failed "abstinence-only" sex education programs.
One religious right group known for its decades-long attacks on the LGBT community – including on LGBTQ teens – the Family Research Council, is heralding there Trump administration's move.
“We’re really excited to see that the administration is giving some tools back to us to keep pushing that fight” for abstinence-only education, FRC government affairs legislative assistant Kelly Marcum told The Hill.