U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced a bill that enhances and expands sex education programs that empower young people to make healthy, informed decisions throughout their lives.

The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (REHYA) would build upon the success of existing federal sexual health programs and establish the first federally funded comprehensive sex education for young people across the country. It would also ensure that federal funds are spent on evidence-based, age appropriate, medically accurate, and culturally appropriate education.

Menendez and Booker were joined by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Al Franken (D-MN), who cosponsored the bill.

“The Trump Administration is once again putting ideology ahead of science and evidence by slashing funding for comprehensive sexual education programs that arm young people with the facts they need to make informed decisions about their health,” Senator Menendez said. “If we are committed to lowering teen pregnancy rates and empowering young people to develop healthy relationships, we should be expanding access to these programs, not pulling the plug on initiatives that make a real difference in the lives of young Americans.”

“Countless studies have shown that comprehensive sex education is the best way to improve the health and wellbeing of our young people,” Senator Booker said. “By giving them the tools to make informed, responsible, and healthy decisions, we can positively impact the health of all Americans. Failing to do this will only exacerbate the health disparities among our kids.”

The reintroduction of REHYA comes in the wake of the Trump Administration’s decision to abruptly disrupt and shorten the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program’s (TPPP) existing five-year cooperative agreement projects with organizations across the country working to prevent teen pregnancy.

Since it was established in 2010, TPPP has served more than a million young people and trained more than 7,000 professionals. The shortening of the TPPP project period effects those currently participating in TPPP-supported programs and the hundreds of thousands of young people expected to be served in the remaining years of the projects.

Last week, Menendez and Booker criticized the Trump Administration over this decision in a letter they joined with 34 other Senators, calling the move “short-sighted.”

Studies have shown that young people who receive sexual health education are 50 percent less likely to experience an unintended pregnancy and 31 percent less likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection. They are also more likely to delay sexual activity and use contraception upon becoming sexually active. Studies also show that abstinence-only education is ineffective at delaying sexual activity or reducing unintended pregnancies.

Despite this evidence, the availability and quality of sex education programs varies drastically across the country. Less than half of all high schools provide education on all of the topics that the Centers for Disease Control has identified are critical to ensuring sexual health. In addition, many young people face barriers to accessing health information and services, resulting in persistent inequity and health disparities.

Specifically, the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act would do the following:

  • Establish criteria and instruction topics by which sex education programs must adhere to in order to receive federal funding.
  • Restrict federal funds from programs that fail to meet a minimum standard and responsiveness to the needs of young people.
  • Create grants for age appropriate, developmentally, culturally appropriate, medically accurate and complete, and evidence-informed comprehensive sex education for adolescents and young people in institutions of higher education.
  • Create professional development and teacher training grants for eligible educators.

REHYA is supported by more than 60 organizations, including:

ACRIA • Advocates for Youth • AIDS Alliance for Women, Infants, Children, Youth & Families • AIDS Healthcare Foundation • The AIDS Institute • AIDS United • American Association of University Women (AAUW) • American Atheists, Inc. • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists • American Humanist Association • American Psychological Association • American Sexual Health Association • BiNet USA• Camp Quest • Catholics for Choice • Center for Inquiry • Centerlink: The Community of LGBT Centers • Freedom From Religion Foundation• Girls Inc • GLSEN • Guttmacher Institute • Healthy Teen Network • Human Rights Campaign • In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda • Lambda Legal • Marriage Equality USA • National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF) •National Association of County and City Health Officials • NASTAD • National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition • National Black Justice Coalition • National Black Leadership Commission On AIDS, Inc. • National Center for Lesbian Rights • National Center for Transgender Equality • National Coalition for LGBT Health • National Council of Jewish Women • National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association • National Health Law Program • National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health • NMAC • National Network of Abortion Funds • National Partnership for Women & Families • National Women’s Law Center • NMAC • Physicians for Reproductive Health • Planned Parenthood Federation of America • Population Institute • Positive Women's Network–USA • Project Inform • Reason Rally Coalition, Inc. •Secular Coalition for America • Secular Student Alliance • Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) • Society for Humanistic Judaism • The Trevor Project • Union for Reform Judaism • Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association • Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation • URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity • Women of Reform Judaism • Young Black Gay Leadership Initiative