But the timing of the videos served a second, unanticipated purpose: They were released on the heels of the Trump administration’s announcement of funding priorities to combat teenage pregnancy. Under the revised model, programs that focus on abstinence education will be favored with federal grant money.
Advocates for sexual education fear that the losers will be the teenagers the administration is purporting to help.
A form of ‘whiplash’
In 2010, under President Barack Obama, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health launched the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program to funnel grant money to programs and innovations proven to help reduce teen pregnancies.
Conservatives have long railed against the program, claiming it’s misguided and ineffective, but with the election of President Donald Trump, it’s come under heavier fire.
In two versions of the federal budget, the Trump administration tried to eliminate the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program altogether, Rhodes said, but Congress continued to fund it.
Last summer, the administration announced that it would prematurely terminate grant funding for 81 recipient programs, which focused on comprehensive sex ed. The move, which cut the support two years early, inspired a number of lawsuits. Last week, a judge in one of the cases ruled against the administration, deeming the early termination of the funding — which had already been granted — unlawful.
“We are disappointed with the ruling,” Health and Human Services spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said at the time. “As numerous studies have shown, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program is not working. Continuing the program in its current state does a disservice to the youth it serves and to the taxpayers who fund it. Communities deserve better, and we are considering our next steps.”
Meantime, though, teen birth rates have continued to drop to record lows.
“I’m sure everyone is lining up to take credit for the decline,” said Dr. Michael Cackovic, an ob-gyn who specializes in maternal fetal medicine at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“Religious groups would like to say girls aren’t having sex,” he said. “But the availability of contraception and the availability of long-term contraception are probably the biggest reasons for the historic drop.”
Words that confuse
“Instead of eliminating [the program] completely, they’re rewriting and reimagining what the program will be,” she said. “They’re trying to dismantle it from the inside out.”
Up to $83 million will be available to public and private organizations, according to the latest announcement. In an email Wednesday, Health and Human Services said that the opportunities “are open to a broad field of teen pregnancy prevention organizations and approaches.”
In addition to emphasizing a delay in sexual activity, there’s a call for “sexual risk reduction,” which includes the cessation of sexual activity among teens who’ve become sexually active.
Boyer suggests that this terminology about risk reduction and avoidance is both confusing and dangerous. These phrases are commonly used in public health prevention strategies for risk-taking behaviors like illicit drug use or cigarette smoking, she wrote.
“But sexual activity is not like many other risky behaviors, which can be prevented altogether. By contrast, sexual activity is a natural and healthy part of being human,” she said. “By withholding life-saving sexual health information and skills, abstinence-only programs do nothing to prepare young people for when they will become sexually active and systematically ignore the needs of those who are already sexually active.”
What young people want
It was a high school teacher who recognized the needs of Sadie Hernandez, now 23, and her classmates. The teacher secretly showed them the Planned Parenthood website so they could learn about contraception. Making herself available to her students to answer questions was something the teacher did on the sly, out of fear of repercussions from administrators.
Hernandez, who grew up in Brownsville, Texas, remains grateful that an adult took a risk to talk to her and her peers. She went on to become an activist in reproductive health work. Today, she lives in Austin and works as a digital organizer for Planned Parenthood.
She was also one of the youth activists who appeared Monday on the Advocates for Youth Facebook page, where she addressed those who are sexually active and discussed ways to avoid risks, including unwanted pregnancies and unhealthy relationships.
When she rattled off types of contraception that are out there, she gave a “shout out to the Depo shot,” or Depo-Provera, a birth-control injection administered every three months. “That’s what I use. I love it.”
She also cautioned viewers to take control of their own sexual health and to not do anything they don’t want to do.
It’s this sort of candor that young people want and need, Hernandez said Tuesday. She’s met too many people who have medically incorrect information, which is why the Trump administration’s efforts concern her.
“I honestly think it’s a misuse of taxpayer money,” she said. “Abstinence-only education demonizes sexual activity and makes young people afraid to go out and ask for help.”
For that reason, she and her peers will keep talking.
News credit : Cnn