Youth advocacy group denounces gov't plan to cut abstinence-only sex education

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An organization that teaches youth to avoid unsafe sexual behaviors has denounced a recent decision to eliminate federal funding for abstinence-only sex education programs. 

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee announced the release of the proposed Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2023. 

The proposed appropriations act eliminates funding for Sexual Risk Avoidance education (SRA), which promotes abstinence until marriage, for the 2023 fiscal year.

The explanatory statement summarizing the budget argues that SRA is “ineffective” and withholds pertinent information about sexual health from teenagers. 

Mary Anne Mosack, president and CEO of Ascend, an organization that advocates for SRA training to help youth form healthy relationships, argues that the program should be funded.

In a Monday statement to The Christian Post, Mosack said parents should be given a choice regarding their child’s sex education. 

“Teaching clarity over confusion in a culture of sexual accommodation demands that we are clear, intentional and sufficiently loud enough for youth to hear over the noise of chaotic, disoriented messages about sex, relationships and marriage,” she said. “How adolescents learn and process this important part of their natural development is key to their healthy decision-making skills.”

Mosack contended that adolescents need to know the biological facts concerning puberty, reproduction and disease transmission and that youth should understand the benefits of delaying sex until marriage. 

“They need to know the red flags of sexual coercion and dating violence,” the SRA proponent said. “They need to know the risks of teen sex, not just to physical health but to mental, emotional and spiritual and ethical health.”

“SRA’s holistic approach puts sex education into a context that goes beyond the mere mechanics of sex to the development of protective factors that help move adolescents along a positive continuum as they journey toward adulthood." 

Mosack added that sex education is “about more than just not getting pregnant or contracting an STD" and that students "need to hear the message that sex is always about more than sex.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national Youth Risk Behavior Survey,  which was released in 2016, reported that about 41.2% of high school students in the U.S. admitted to having sexual intercourse, a decrease of 5.6% compared to its 2013 survey. 

Despite former President Barack Obama’s administration funding Comprehensive Sex Education programs over SRA, the CDC report found an increase from 2009-2015 in the number of sexually active students who did not use contraceptives during sexual intercourse. 

"Policy makers must place an emphasis on SRA education, rather than an approach that normalizes teen sex," Valerie Huber, then-CEO of Ascend, told The Christian Post in 2016 in response to the CDC report. 

"Parents should be encouraged to set the high expectation that their children reserve sex for marriage. School sex education classes should reinforce the healthy behaviors being made by more and more teens. And churches, local agencies and every other entity that has an influence over America's youth should rethink the message they are sending to teens about sex. Are these messages normalizing teen sex or normalizing waiting?"

"If youth can make increasingly healthy decisions about sex without the reinforcement and support of adults and mentoring organizations, think of what it might look like if those influencers stepped up to the plate and promoted the healthiest choices for teens and their sexual health?" Huber continued.

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