Archive for the ‘Sex Education’ Category

On Monday, President Obama delivered the proposed budget for fiscal year 2011 to Congress.

We are grateful that the Administration has expanded federal funds for Title X family planning programs and clinics, which invest in reproductive health and wellness for Latinas and immigrant women and provide reproductive health care to many Latinas.  Latinas have the highest uninsured rate of women of any other racial or ethnic group, at 37%, and it is critical that during our national economic crisis we continue to offer an essential source of reproductive health and preventative services, especially for low-income women.

It is also good news that the President has increased funding for evidence-based sex education and for community health centers, which are an essential source of reproductive and preventive health care for low-income Latinas and immigrant women.

However, we are deeply disappointed with the President’s decision to preserve the harmful provision known as the Hyde Amendment in the FY 2011 budget.  A woman’s ability to access a legal, safe abortion remains under attack, and as evidenced by health care reform debates, the Hyde Amendment only serves as ammunition.  Over a quarter of women on Medicaid are Latinas, and low-income Latina and immigrant women are disproportionately impacted by restrictions to abortion access.  Preserving this provision will enable a politically-motivated barrier to continue and restricts safe, legal abortions for poor women.

While it is important to recognize that the budget includes some victories for reproductive health access, it is also crucial to speak out against provisions that prevent true reproductive justice. Basta! 33 years is enough!

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Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America stated at a center in San Antonio this past week that abstinence-only education does not serve our youth, but in fact, endangers them. While holding up the current state-approved Health class textbook, Richards said:

There’s absolutely nothing in here about using a condom or anything else that would prevent a sexually transmitted infection.

Texas, for more than five years now, has had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. The prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has also increased with abstinence-only education. The evidence that this education (or lack thereof) has lead to countless unintended pregnancies or STIs is difficult to ignore . With recent addendums made by the Texas Board of Education, health classes are no longer even a requirement for students to graduate.

As a graduate from a high school in Houston, lifelong Texas citizen, and intern for NLIRH, I have firsthand experience with teen pregnancy and the lack of medically-accurate education. Five of my childhood friends have had children since gradation, all of which were unintended. If Texas doesn’t reexamine its educational priorities, the future of the state will reflect the carelessness of its curriculum.

By Carlos Blanco, Community Mobilization Intern

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When searching on the internet for answers to teen sexual health questions, one can come across many websites that either don’t have teen friendly information or misinformation which can lead teens in the total wrong direction. A study conducted by researchers at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and Stanford School of Medicine found that the most trafficked health websites that come up in google search for “birth control”, “sexually transmitted disease” or “morning after pill,” do not provide the most up-to-date and accurate information.

For instance, these websites do not give the most up-to-date World Health Organization directions for taking Plan B (take both pills at the same time within 5 days of unprotected sex), inform readers that Plan B can be purchased over the counter at authorized pharmacies in 9 states, or dispel the myth that Plan B induces abortion. In addition, the websites do not dispel myths around weight gain from birth control, how specific STDs are transmitted, and when the recommended time to begin getting pap smears.

The researchers do however recommend these three accurate and teen friendly websites: Go Ask Alice, a question-and-answer service by Columbia University; the Center for Young Women’s Health from Children’s Hospital Boston; TeensHealth, a part of KidsHealth.org; and Teen Wire, a site for teens maintained by Planned Parenthood.

As hard as it is to find medically accurate and progressive information for sexual health on the internet, it’s encouraging that public health and medical professionals are working to correct the misinformation and dispel myths, so that teens can have a fighting chance to access good information and make healthy decisions.

By Robin Mangini, Research Intern

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Liza Fuentes, Senior Research Associate at NLIRH, has an op-ed in El Diario about Bristol Palin and abstinence only education.

Esta semana, los medios celebraron El día de la Prevención del Embarazo en Adolescentes entrevistando a Bristol Palin, madre adolescente e hija de la gobernadora de Alaska Sarah Palin, quien trató de convencer a las y los jóvenes que su caso es ejemplo de porque no tener sexo: no puede salir con sus amigos como antes y perdió la oportunidad de asistir a la universidad fuera de Alaska. Los consejos de Bristol Palin, desgraciadamente, solo logran demostrar que tan desconectada es su campaña de la realidad de la vida de tantos Latinos adolescentes.

Read the rest here.

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In an interview with Greta Van Susteren, Bristol Palin spoke out about her pregnancy without her mother Gov. Sarah Palin’s input or censorship.

Bristol, who recently became a teen mom, and received much media attention during her mother’s run for Vice President along side Senator John McCain this fall, shared these words in her interview:

Everyone should be abstinent, but it’s not realistic at all.

Bristol went on to talk about how sexual activity is becoming more accepted among kids in school, which may be the cause of increased sexual activity among students.


Because Gov. Palin, in her political career and campaign for Vice Presidency, was such a staunch supporter of abstinence-only education (along with many in the Republican party), her daughter’s position shows the fissures in the ab-only movement.


Bristol and her new-born son are living proof that the abstinence-only approach doesn’t always work, not even when you are raised by parents who believe in this form of sex education. 


This debate about sex education (comprehensive or abstinence only?) will continue in the new Obama administration. President Obama recently included $94 million dollars in his new budget for abstinence only education, so the fight is clearly not over yet.


Contributed by Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow

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Photo courtesy of NYTimes

Photo courtesy of NYTimes

In the latest effort to increase condom use, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are introducing the e-condom on Facebook.


Facebook, a website started in 2004, has over 175 million users, many of whom are adolescents and young adults, making it a great way to educate users about condom use and safe sex practices. 


In addition to safe sex education, the Facebook page also provides interesting facts on topics such as HIV that viewers can learn from.  For example, people living in New York might be shocked to learn that 1 of every 25 men living in Manhattan have HIV, a statistic that might make people think twice before having unprotected sex.


Besides providing information on Facebook, in 2007 NYC designed its first condom, and since then over 70 million have been given away.  By providing education and access to contraceptives, the goal is to see less sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies in New York.


Contributed by Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow

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In as little as twenty minutes you can know the results of your HIV test, without even stepping foot inside a doctors office.  Instead stop by the mobile health van located outside your hair salon.


For residents of Westchester, this method is being used to increase the number of people getting tested for HIV while also educating them on condom use and safe sex practices.


The test is quick and you don’t even need to draw blood—all it requires is a swab of saliva from your mouth.  The test is effective, and is giving young people with questions about sex and others without health insurance an outlet for health services that might otherwise be unattainable.


Za’id Ali, the project coordinator for Open Door Family Medical Centers, is one of the organizations sponsoring a mobile van.


“This year we have had six positives,” he says, clearly showing the impact that this program can have.  Without this testing option, they would have went on living without knowing about their condition, preventing them from getting the treatment that they need.  


What’s great about this program is that it reaches an audience in need of help, while encouraging people to get tested in what may be a more comfortable setting.  The mobile van may be a tool that would be effective in reaching other neighborhoods, helping to increase HIV testing rates.  By providing this option, it might be easier to target young adults and immigrants, among others, who may be hesitant to visit a doctor.


Via NYTimes


Contributed by Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow

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I found an interesting issue brief at RH Reality Check and had some thoughts on it.

Sexuality education plays an important role for the young people in our community; it prevents them from catching sexually transmitted diseases, having to deal with an unplanned pregnancy, and confronting HIV/AIDS.

While most students in the US get some type of sex education between 7th and 12th grade, what the students are being taught is different, because of the abstinence-only education policy, which limits teacher’s efforts in informing their students about their bodies, and how to protect themselves. Many people recognize that most students are already having sex when sex education is being implemented in school.

The best thing way to get through to kids would be to talk about how to use condoms, the availability of contraceptives and the importance of getting seen by a doctor. From the RHRC brief:

In the U.S., proponents of abstinence-only-until-marriage education argue that abstinence be taught as the ONLY effective means of disease and pregnancy prevention. Further, they ONLY want the “harmful effects” of sex before marriage and contraceptive failure discussed. Conversely, proponents of a broad-based approach want abstinence taught, along with ALL the other ways to prevent unintended pregnancy, disease, and abortion. And they also want responsible decision-making, sexual orientation, and sexuality development included.

It is unethical to think that we as a community, a society, or government, can actually put an end to our youth engaging in sexual intercourse; but if we work together and teach our children how to protect themselves then we would have educated our youth and provided a slightly short percentage of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases around the world. Parents as well play a serious role in not only educating, but influencing their child’s decisions about early sexual involvement. It’s important for everyone to get involved and speak openly about educating our youth about sex.

 Contributed by Dominique Diaz, Community Mobilization Intern


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The CDC has released results from its annual National Youth Risk Behavior Study (YRBS).  The survey was administered across high schools nationwide and found that, overall, teenagers today engaged in less risky behavior than those 10 years earlier. Despite this general decrease, the figures indicated that Latino teens engaged in more risky behavior than black and white teenagers, especially concerning sexual behavior. 


While black and white teens showed significant decreases both in those who had ever had sexual intercourse and those who had four or more sexual partners, Latino teens showed no significant change in these categories; 52% reported ever having sexual intercourse in 2007 compared to 53% in 1991 and 17% reported having ever had four or more sexual partners in 2007 and 1991. 


Moreover, Latino students did not demonstrate the same increase in learning about HIV/AIDS in school:

The percentage of high school students who were taught about HIV/AIDS in school did not change significantly among Hispanics (85 percent in 2007; 82 percent in 1991), but did increase during 1991-2007 among black students (90 percent in 2007: 84 percent in 1991) and white students (91 percent in 2007; 83 percent in 1991.)

These statistics demonstrate the continued importance of providing a comprehensive sexual education for all teenagers, particularly one that is culturally competent.  It is imperative that continue to push for comprehensive sex ed, especially in light of recent findings refuting the ability of abstinence-only education to effectively delay sexual initiation.


More figures and statistics from YRBS, including information about other health risk behaviors, can be found here.


Contributed by Yodit Beru, Policy Intern 

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President Bush Threatens to Veto Global Gag Rule

On September 6, 2007 an amendment to the 2008 fiscal year foreign aid appropriations bill repeals Global gag rule, passing by a vote of 53-41 in the Senate.  In June, the House of Representatives voted 223-201 for a similar amendment to the 2008 foreign aid appropriations bill in the House.

The Global Gag rule is found in the State-Foreign Appropriations bill and it places limitations on the services and information that foreign NGOs can provide if they accept U.S. financial aid.  The Global Gag rule was first passed during the Reagan administration in 1984.  President Clinton in 1993 rescinded it but in 2001 President W. Bush restored the rule with an Executive Order.

Specifically the Global Gag rule:

  • Prohibits foreign NGOS to use U.S. financial aid to provide legal abortions unless in a case of rape, incest or life endangerment;
  • Prohibits the ability of foreign NGOs to give information on what an abortion is and where a woman can get a legal one;
  • Prohibits the lobbying efforts of foreign NGOs to legalize abortion, oppose abortion restrictions and/or decriminalize abortion and
  • Prohibits foreign NGOs from organizing public awareness campaigns on abortion using U.S. aid OR their own private funds.

Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) co-authored the amendment to the FY2008 foreign-aid bill.  However, the Senate also voted to approve Sen. Sam Brownback’s (R-KS) amendment that will allow President Bush, for the sixth year in a row, to rescind funding for the U.N. Population Fund family-planning program.

In the past six years, the global gag rule has created barriers to not only getting an abortion but also in receiving information to make an informed decision about the path of their reproductive health, clearly violating Latina’s human right to decide if and when to bear children under customary law.

Many Latinas in foreign countries rely upon NGOs to provide them with the reproductive health information and services that they need.  And because of the dire global economy that we are currently in, foreign NGOs also rely on foreign aid to maintain their facilities.  Therefore, the global gag rule does not give NGOs a choice in the services they can provide.

Over the years, the ripple effect of placing restrictions on funding is that many Latinas in foreign country do not know their reproductive and sexual rights and when they emigrate to the U.S. they continue to live under the belief that they do not have the legal right to have an abortion.

Take Action with NARAL!

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