Advocates for Youth Applauds the Introduction of the Real Education & Access for Healthy Youth Act (REAHYA) in the 117th Congress

Today, Congress introduced the Real Education & Access for Healthy Youth Act (REAHYA). The bill was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) in the House and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) in the Senate. 

REAHYA would ensure that federal funding is allocated to comprehensive, inclusive sex education programs that provide young people with the skills and information they need to make informed, responsible, and healthy decisions AND provide linkages to sexual health services for young people who face the greatest barriers to care. REAHYA acknowledges the role systemic racism has played in our education and health care institutions and the resulting barriers to access on those already most marginalized. This vital legislation combines two federal bills from past years, the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act and the Youth Access to Sexual Health Services Act, to set forth a vision for comprehensive sexual health education programs in the United States. 

Congress has already recognized the importance of this issue, earlier this month Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) introduced a resolution recognizing May as Sex Ed For All Month and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) joined young folks at a Youth Town Hall to speak on young people’s right to inclusive, medically-accurate, and non-stigmatizing sexual education and care. 

Polling has consistently shown strong support for sex education among parents, educators, young people, and the general public. Currently, the U.S. does not have a standard national sex education program and sex education is not consistently and adequately funded at the federal level, leaving the funding and quality of programs to vary significantly across the country. This leaves many young people without the knowledge and skills they need to make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health. Continually, the sex education and access to care young people recieve is based on who they are and where they are. 

Young people have consistently called for increased access to sexual health information and health care services, as they face vast systemic inequalities and structural barriers that prevent positive health outcomes. Decades of research has found that in addition to helping to prevent teen pregnancy and STIs, sex education can help prevent child sex abuse, create safer school spaces for LGBTQ young people, increase healthy relationships, reduce relationship violence, improve social-emotional learning, and increase media literacy. Research also has shown that sex education can have a transformational impact on school climate by utilizing intersectional approaches that affirm race, gender, and other aspects of identity. High-quality sex education can contribute to dismantling barriers to social and racial justice by promoting equity and inclusion in classrooms and school environments.

The overwhelming majority of people agree: young people in the U.S. should have access to sex education and health services. Unfortunately, too many young people in our nation aren’t getting the information, skills, and care they need to make informed sexual and reproductive health decisions.

Advocates for Youth applauds the introduction of the Real Education for Access and Healthy Youth Act. Congress must act to pass this vital legislation to provide inclusive, high-quality sex education and access to care for all young people.