The Healthy Youth Act could help position the state to accept new federal funds
Madison, WI — Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin today praised Congress for passing the 2010 Appropriations Bill, which eliminates failed abstinenceonly- until-marriage funding and for the first time allocates federal dollars for evidencebased sex education that has proven effective in preventing unintended pregnancy.
“We commend Congress for understanding the link between the failed abstinenceonly programs of the past eight years and the stagnant rates of unintended pregnancy and exploding rates of sexually transmitted infections among youth in Wisconsin,” said Chris Taylor, Public Policy director of PPAWI. “At Planned Parenthood, we understand the benefit of access to comprehensive, medically accurate reproductive health information in helping young people lead healthy, productive lives. This is why we are supporting the Healthy Youth Act in the Wisconsin state legislature to ensure more students have access to life saving health information.”
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are increasing throughout Wisconsin among teens. Twenty percent of new HIV infections in the state are diagnosed in young people ages 15-24. Each year, Wisconsin spends $273 million on costs associated with unintended teen childbearing and STDs. Teen childbearing also has a devastating impact on teens and state taxpayers. Teen mothers are more likely to drop out of high school and children born to teens are nine times more likely to live in poverty.
The new evidence-based teen pregnancy initiative will replace the Community Based Abstinence Education program implemented under the previous administration. The new initiative, funded at $114 million, will be administered by the newly authorized Offi ce of Adolescent Health in the Office of the Secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, Title X, the nation’s family planning program, received a $10 million increase for a total of $317,491,000, which still falls short of adequately funding the program.
The Healthy Youth Act was passed by the state Assembly in November. The bill requires that public schools choosing to offer sexuality education include core elements that have been proven to reduce teen pregnancy and STI rates. These elements are taught when age appropriate and include: stressing abstinence as the most reliable way to prevent pregnancy and STIs; discussing contraception and barrier methods to prevent disease and pregnancy; and the development of healthy life skills and communication skills with parents and guardians, to name a few. The bill strengthens current Wisconsin law and makes the state an attractive candidate for federal funding set aside under this appropriations bill, making it even more urgent that this state bill be passed by the state Senate.
Parents’ involvement in school curriculum is enhanced under the Healthy Youth Act, which permits parents to: review the curricula and any course at any time, remove their child from sex ed classrooms for any reason and requires school boards to notify parents if sex ed is not taught. The Healthy Youth Act also preserves local control at the school board level, as school boards would select curricula that satisfy the principles outlined in the bill. School boards also retain the ability to choose not to teach human growth and development.
“Education is the first step in reversing these devastating public health trends among teens in Wisconsin. Now we not only have a bill that sets the basic standards for sexuality education, but also a funding mechanism from the Congress,” Taylor continued. “We urge the state Senate to act quickly on this important initiative when they return to session in January so that Wisconsin is positioned in the best way possible as a recipient for these new funds.”