Governor McDonnell Has The Chance to Protect The Health of Virginia’s Youth

It’s hardly news that abstinence-only sex education doesn’t work. Many states, including Virginia, have recognized the failures of abstinence-only education, and in 2009, chose not to apply for Title V abstinence-only funding. Now Virginia faces a choice: Governor McDonnell can apply for Title V funding, for new funding for comprehensive sex ed or for both.

The funding for comprehensive sex education comes in the form of $55 million a year, for five years, through the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP). The Obama administration has made this funding available for states to implement sex ed programs that have been proven effective. And unlike funding for abstinence-only, PREP does not require matching funds that come from the state. All Governor McDonnell has to do is request it.

What difference could comprehensive sex ed make for Virginia’s youth? A significant one. In Virginia, 60,000 unintended pregnancies occur every year, 13,000 teen pregnancies occur every year, and in 2008, 43,000 Virginians reported having gonorrhea, Chlamydia, or syphilis. Approximately one in four sexually active teens contracts an STD, and half of all new HIV infections are estimated to occur in people under age 25. Comprehensive sex ed can combat these trends. Studies have shown that medically accurate, age-appropriate comprehensive sex ed successfully delays first intercourse, reduces the frequency of sex, and reduces the number of sexual partners, all of which may reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy or STIs.

Abstinence-only-until-marriage education, on the other hand, does not effectively decrease sexual activity and may even put teens at higher risk of unintended pregnancy and STIs. This increased risk is due to misinformation (or lack of information) about contraception, combined with the unrealistic representation of abstinence as the only possibility for teens to protect themselves. Denying teens information that can protect their health is a dangerous move.

Requesting funding for the PREP program is a logical move, supported by evidence. It costs the commonwealth of Virginia nothing, unlike the matching funds required for abstinence-only-until marriage programs, and can help reverse the disturbing trends observed among Virginia’s teens.

Today is the deadline for Governor McDonnell to request these funds. Let’s be sure to email him and ask that he support education that works for Virginia’s youth!

Yours in choice!

For more reading, our good friends at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia have a letter to the editor in the Richmond Times-Dispatch outlining the benefits of PREP funding.

Additionally, WTVR in Richmond covered the story.

[Thanks to our intern Julia for her work on this post.]

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