05.18.21

Lee, Adams, Booker, and Hirono Introduce the Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Alma Adams (NC-12) joined with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to introduce the Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act (REAHYA), which addresses both education and access to care for young people, with a focus on those most impacted by barriers to sex education and sexual health services. 

Currently, only 29 states and the District of Columbia require sex education, and when sex education is taught, 15 States do not require the content to be evidence-informed, medically accurate and complete, age and developmentally appropriate, or culturally responsive. Additionally, many sex education programs and sexual health services are inaccessible or do not meet the needs of young people who are LGBTQ+, Black, Indigenous, or from other communities of color.  

REAHYA would offer the first federal grants for comprehensive sex education programs in the United States and end investments in harmful Title V abstinence-only programs. These grants would fund programs at high schools, colleges, and organizations to support the sexual health and agency of students and young people. This legislation would also require program grantees to promote gender equity and offer instruction that is inclusive of young people with varying gender identities, gender expressions, and sexual orientations. 

“For too long, many sex education programs and sexual health services have been inaccessible or failed to meet the needs of young people who are LGBTQ+, Black, Indigenous, or from other communities of color,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “This legislation is a critical step in providing young people with the sex education and sexual health services they need to make informed decisions about their health and their lives. Let’s continue our work to make these critical education programs and health services inclusive and accessible to all.”  

“All young people deserve comprehensive sex education and access to community-based health services that empower them to make healthy, informed decisions and meet their unique needs and lived experiences,” said Congresswoman Alma Adams. “That is why I’m proud to join with Congresswoman Barbara Lee in introducing the Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act during Sex Ed for All Month. This new bill combines my Youth Access to Sexual Health Services (YASHS) Act and Rep. Lee’s Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (REHYA) to ensure young people have access to developmentally and culturally appropriate sex education that is evidence-informed, medically accurate and youth-friendly. Our combined bills provide necessary funding and an inclusive roadmap for combatting sexual health disparities across the country and equipping young people with the information, skills, and services they need to make smart and healthy decisions throughout their lifetime.” 

 “Countless studies have shown that comprehensive sex education and sexual health services are two of the best ways to improve the health and well-being of our young people, especially in underserved communities,” said Senator Booker. “By giving young people the tools to make informed, responsible, and healthy decisions, we can positively impact the health of all Americans and limit health disparities. The Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act will ensure that our young people have access to both sex education and sexual health services and are empowered to make healthy, informed decisions throughout their lives.”  

 “Young adults in our country often lack access to comprehensive, evidence-based sex education and sexual health services,” said Senator Mazie Hirono. “The Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act will provide young adults with the tools and knowledge they need to make informed decisions regarding their sexual health, and help them to develop healthier relationships. This is particularly important as we continue to work to reduce health disparities among young people in underserved communities.” 

This legislation was co-sponsored in the House by: Michael F.Q. San Nicolas, Alan Lowenthal, Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, Jr., Jackie Speier, Suzan DelBene, Yvette D. Clarke, Jan Schakowsky, Nydia M. Velázquez, Jahana Hayes, Gerald E. Connolly, Paul D. Tonko,  Ted Deutch, Terri A. Sewell,  Karen Bass, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Ruben Gallego, Julia Brownley, Earl Blumenauer, Gwen Moore, Ted W. Lieu, Lizzie Fletcher, Steve Cohen, Raúl M. Grijalva, Rick Larsen, Jerry McNerney, John Yarmuth, Jesús G. "Chuy" García, Diana DeGette, Ayanna Pressley, David Trone, Cori Bush, Ann McLane Kuster, Jake Auchincloss, Peter Welch, Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, Anthony G. Brown, Mark Takano, Ilhan Omar, Adriano Espaillat, Dina Titus, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Deborah K. Ross, Adam Smith, Danny K. Davis, Judy Chu. 

This legislation was co-sponsored in the Senate by: Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

Full text of the bill can be found here.

For a letter from supporting organizations, click here 

This legislation has been endorsed by: Advocates for Youth, AIDS Alabama, AIDS Alliance for Women, Infants, Children, Youth & Families AIDS Foundation Chicago, The AIDS Institute American Atheists, American Humanist Association American Public Health Association, American Sexual Health Association, The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, APLA Health Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, Aunt Rita's Foundation, Black AIDS Institute, Cascade AIDS Project, Catholics for Choice, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Disability Rights Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research (CLEAR), Center for Reproductive Rights Colorado Organizations and Individuals Responding to HIV/AIDS (CORA), Desiree Alliance Equality California, EyesOpenIowa, Fact Forward Girls Inc., Girls Inc., NH Girls Inc., of Alameda County Girls Inc. of Bay County Girls Inc. of Carpinteria Girls Inc. of Chicago Girls Inc. of Greater Houston Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara Girls Inc. of Long Island Girls Inc. of Memphis Girls Inc. of Metro Denver Girls Inc. of Orange County Girls Inc. of San Antonio Girls Inc. of the Island City Girls Inc. of the Valley Girls Inc. of Wayne County Girls Incorporated of Kingsport Girls, Incorporated of Sioux City, Girls Incorporated of Washington County MD, Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center/Girls Inc. of the Berkshires, Guttmacher Institute, Health Connected Healthy Teen Network, HIV + Hepatitis Policy Institute, Human Rights Watch, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda, interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth International Association of Providers of AIDS Care, Ipas Jewish Women International, Lambda Legal, Mazzoni Center Medical Students for Choice, Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health (MOASH), Modern Military Association of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, NASTAD National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), National Black Women's HIV/AIDS, Network National Center for Transgender Equality, National Coalition of STD Directors, National Council of Jewish Women, National Equality Action Team (NEAT), National Family Planning & Reproductive Health, Association National Health Law Program, National Institute for Reproductive Health, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Network of Abortion Funds, National Organization for Women, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Working Positive Coalition, North Carolina, AIDS Action Network, one-n-ten, People For the American Way, PFLAG, National Physicians for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Institute, Positive Women's Network,-USA Power to Decide Prevention Access Campaign, Reframe Health and Justice Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice Reproductive Health Access Project, RISE: Healthy for Life, SHAPE America, SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change, Silver State Equality-Nevada, Southwest Center Teen Health, Mississippi Treatment Action Group, Union for Reform Judaism, URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, Whitman-Walker Institute, Women of Reform Judaism, WV FREE  

See quotes below from supporting organizations:  

Christine Soyong Harley, President & CEO of?SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change: “Thirty years of research prove that sex education that builds an early foundation, and scaffolds?learning with developmentally appropriate content, are key to learning the information, attitudes?and skills that support healthy sexuality. As the U.S. grapples with increasingly broader calls for?gender equity, LGBTQ equality, and racial justice, is important to assert that sex education not?only empowers individuals to make the best decisions for their own health and well-being, but to?do so by centering the needs of our most underserved young people. SIECUS applauds Congress?for introducing?The Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act (REAHYA)?as an important?legislative tool to re-center the fact that sex education’s primary role is to promote healthy sexual?development and skills for navigating healthy relationships, personal sexual health, and?reproductive autonomy throughout the lifetime and for those who deserve this support the most."? 

Monica Edwards (she/her), Federal Policy Manager, URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity: “URGE is grateful for the leadership of Representatives Barbara Lee and Alma Adams as well as Senators Cory?Booker?and Mazie Hirono for introducing the Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act (REAHYA). Young people need and deserve medically accurate, age-appropriate, LGBTQIA+-inclusive, and anti-racist sex-education. Far too often young people — especially young people who are Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) and LGBTQIA+ — are denied the knowledge, skills, and ability to access sex education and sexual health services that is accurate, affirming, culturally responsive, and non-stigmatizing. We must reckon with the reality that this isn’t by chance but is a manifestation of centuries of LGBTQIA+ discrimination, white supremacy, xenophobia and anti-Blackness. This bill is an important next step in working towards a world where Reproductive Justice can be a reality.” 

Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, CEO, Power to Decide: “All young people – no matter who they are or where they live – deserve high-quality, medically-accurate and inclusive sex education. This bill is a step in the right direction and builds on existing evidence-based sex education funded at the federal level with an approach that meets the needs of all young people and focuses on those young people facing the greatest barriers to the information and access they need. High-quality sex education can have an immense impact on a young person’s life, and we must continue to break down the barriers for young people to access this information.” 

Christian LoBue, NARAL Chief Campaigns and Advocacy Officer: “NARAL is grateful for the leadership of Representatives Barbara Lee and Alma Adams as well as Senators Cory Booker and Mazie Hirono in introducing the Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act (REAHYA)For too long, young people have faced barriers to accessing comprehensive and inclusive sex education and sexual health care. This critical legislation would help ensure that young people have high-quality sex education and that they can access the care they need to make healthy decisions for their lives and their futures.” 

Debra Hauser, Advocates for Youth President: "Advocates for Youth applauds the groundbreaking introduction of the Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act. “Providing youth with honest, inclusive, and culturally responsive sex education empowers them to make healthy decisions about sex and relationships and is far more effective than simply telling them to “just say no”. With that, young people also need affordable access to sexual health services that are confidential and youth-friendly. This bill is a vitally needed first step in creating a culture that values all young people and ensures them equal access to quality sex education and linkages to the health care they deserve.”   

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America: “We thank Reps. Lee and Adams, and Sens. Hirono and Booker for introducing REAHYA and prioritizing sex educationAfter decades of underfunding and political interference, now more than ever, young people need access to the knowledge and services necessary to understand their bodies, define their boundaries, protect their health, and build their own futures. Congress must swiftly pass this bill and make it clear that sex education is a fundamental part of education.”