medically accurate sex education
Sex Education Podcast Series
"Common Sense: The Case for Comprehensive Sexual Education in Illinois" is a six-part series highlighting the need for comprehensive sex education in Illinois schools. Our students deserve accurate and evidence-based sex education to make safe, informed choices and to protect their sexual health throughout adolescence and into adulthood.
Episode 1 – What Is The Current Status of Sex Education in Illinois?
What are the regulations on sex education right now and what are our students learning? This episode features interviews with Planned Parenthood's Teen Awareness Group (TAG), in which members share their various experiences of sexual education provided in their own high school.
Episode 2 – How Effective Is the Current Sex Education in Illinois?
This episode aims to find out what curriculum schools are using. Illinois teachers share their experiences teaching sex education, and high school members of our Teen Awareness Group weigh in on the quality of the education they received.
Episode 3 – What Exactly Is Comprehensive Sex Education?
What exactly is comprehensive sex education? How does it measure up to abstinence-only education? This episode investigates what information is included in these programs, discusses the options students and parents are given, and provides evidence showing why teens need more than just abstinence-only education.
Episode 4 – Why Should You Support Comprehensive Sex Education?
This episode offers scientific and public support for requiring comprehensive sex ed in our public schools. Hear interviews with supporters, teachers, and students from Planned Parenthood’s Teen Awareness Group on why they support comprehensive sex education, what they want their community’s adolescents to learn, and the effects this curriculum could have on their community.
Episode 5 – Introduction to the Personal Responsibility Education Program
Episode 5 focuses on a bill called the Personal Responsibility Education Program Act, also known as the Illinois PREP Act. This bill would require public schools that teach sexual health classes to offer an age-appropriate, medically accurate comprehensive sexual education curriculum. Brigid Leahy, the Director of Legislative Affairs, discusses the importance of the PREP Act and the incredible impact comprehensive sexual education would have on Illinois teens and their communities.
Episode 6 – Lobby Day in Springfield for Comprehensive Sex Ed
This episode includes highlights from the PREP Act’s Lobby Day in Springfield that took place on March 30th, 2011. You’ll get to listen in on the hundreds of supporters who rallied for this important issue, with exclusive interviews from members of our Teen Awareness Group on their Lobby Day experience. Kate Barthelme, the Director of Field Operations, shares ways to get involved in ensuring the passage of the Illinois PREP Act.
Current State of Adolescent Sexual Health
Did you know that the United States has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the developed world? Each year approximately 750,000 American teenagers become pregnant. An estimated 37,000 of these teenagers are from Illinois, which accounts for 5% of the nation’s teenage pregnancies. Additionally, roughly nine million new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) occur in young adults each year. Within Illinois, adolescents are contracting sexually transmitted infections faster than any other age group.
What these statistics tell us is that the current form of sex education (or lack thereof) in many Illinois schools is failing our youth.
Current Legislative Policies Regarding Illinois Sex Education
Illinois state education regulations do NOT require the inclusion of sex education within school curricula. The state allows each school to decide how and whether it wants to educate its students about sexual health. Furthermore, if the school does choose to provide sex education, the curriculum is required to stress abstinence, but does not have to provide information about contraceptives. These regulations have created a system in which 40% of the students who receive sexual health education are taught an abstinence-only curriculum.
Lack of Evidence for Abstinence-Only Programs
Abstinence-only curricula require that teenagers only be educated about sex within the context of marriage. These programs generally prohibit any mention of family planning, contraception, or disease prevention. In 2004, the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Government Reform found that 80% of the most popular, federally-funded, abstinence-only programs contained incorrect or misleading information. This included basic scientific errors, misinformation about the accuracy of contraceptives, a misrepresentation about the risks of abortion, an inclusion of religious content into scientific information, and the promotion of stereotypical gender roles.
Extensive research over the past thirty years has demonstrated the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only programs, yet these programs continue to be endorsed by our policy makers. In fact, we’ve spent more than $1.5 billion on ineffective abstinence-only programs across the United States. To learn more about abstinence-only programs, click here.
Comprehensive Sex Education
What our young adults need is comprehensive sex education. This means a medically-accurate and age-appropriate curriculum that includes information about abstinence as well as information about condoms and contraceptives. There is a large amount of scientific evidence that provides support for the integration of comprehensive sex education into the required state curricula:
• According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, the majority (86%) of the reduction in the teenage pregnancy rate in the last decade has been the result of improvements in contraceptive use. This includes an increase in the proportion of teenagers using a single method of contraception, an increase in the proportion of teenagers using multiple methods of contraception simultaneously, and a significant decline in nonuse of contraception. Furthermore, a mere 14% of this decline can be contributed to a decrease in sexual activity.
• The Surgeon General reports that sex education curricula that include abstinence, as well as condoms and contraceptives, have no effect on the initiation of sexual activity, and in some cases, have been linked to the delayed onset of sexual activity.
• According to the Guttmacher Institute, there is strong evidence that providing adolescents with information about contraceptives delays the onset of sexual intercourse, reduces their number of sexual partners, and increases contraceptive use during sexual activity.
• A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that young adults that received comprehensive sex education, rather than abstinence-only education, were 50% less likely to become pregnant during their teenage years.
This scientific evidence contends that comprehensive sex education helps young adults withstand pressures and promotes healthy, responsible and mutually protective relationships when they do become sexually active. Withholding this vital information from young adults ensures that uninformed adolescents become uninformed adults.
Providing teens and young people with the information they need to make responsible decisions about their sexual health is the common sense solution to reducing unintended teen pregnancy and STIs. We need elected officials who will ensure that public schools teach responsible, age-appropriate, medically-accurate sex education.