Sexuality and Family Rights

Sexuality and Family Rights

During the past decade, Legal Momentum drew attention to federal policies that were having a particularly negative impact on women and girls.  Among these policies which received federal funding during the Bush Administration were abstinence–only education (which limited young women’s access to accurate reproductive health information), marriage promotion (advanced as a cure-all for wide-scale women’s poverty, while taking away valuable resources from women for job-force training and other proven measures), and opposition to same-sex marriage (which relied heavily on gender stereotypes).

Issues

Through Legal Momentum's work in Sexuality and Family Rights, the orgainization seeks to promote women's autonomy, protect women's sexual and reproductive rights, and hold the government accountable for funding and promotion of policies that limit these rights, and harm women and glirls.

Abstinence-Only Programs Harm Women and Girls

Until recently, the federal government provided over $200 million a year in funding for abstinence-only programs, programs that teach that sex outside marriage, at any age and under any circumstances, is inherently dangerous and wrong. This abstinence-only message provides insufficient and often false information about contraception, disease prevention, and abortion, promotes regressive sex stereotyping and stigmatizes homosexuality.

Legal Momentum's work emphasizes how abstinence-only programs adversely affect women and girls. First, these programs censor truthful and practical information about sexuality, contraception, and abortion. This censorship particularly subjects women and girls to the risk of unintended pregnancy and a greater risk of contracting STIs. Second, the curricula promote damaging sex stereotypes and gender bias that threaten women's autonomy.

We have extensively analyzed the most commonly used abstinence-only programs to document their gender stereotypes and factual inaccuracies. We continue to work with experts in the field of sexual health to examine the effects of abstinence-only programs on girls and women and to advocate for comprehensive sexuality education.

Additional Information

  • Learn more about Abstinence-Only Programs.
  • Learn more about Federal Funding for Abstinence-Only Programs.
  • Read Legal Momentum's Congressional Testimony (PDF) against abstinence-only programs.

Same-Sex Marriage

Legal Momentum helps courts understand how restricting the institution of marriage to opposite-sex couples fosters impermissible sex stereotypes. The right of same sex couples to marry is one of the defining civil rights issues of our time. Those who wish to deny same-sex couples the right to marry rely on outdated sex stereotypes about "gender appropriate" roles within marriage, typically arguing that children need a "mother" and a "father" role model and suggesting, for example, that men are responsible for teaching children about initiative, risk taking, and independence whereas women are responsible for care giving and nurturing.

Legal Momentum also actively opposes the discriminatory Federal Marriage Amendment which would ban marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC)

CPCs are "fake" abortion clinics run by extreme anti-abortion groups that imitate actual abortion clinics, despite the fact that they do not provide abortion or contraceptive services and the majority are not medical clinics at all. CPCs typically use deceptive advertising tactics to mask their true anti-abortion agenda and to bring women into their facilities. Using misinformation, shame and scare tactics, these centers seek to dissuade women who face unintended pregnancies from choosing abortion. CPCs originated as a grass-roots anti-abortion response to the legalization of abortion following Roe v. Wade. Though several CPCs have been individually targeted for their deceptive practices, little concrete legal or legislative action has been taken against them and they are largely unregulated at both the federal and state level.

Legal Momentum works hard to support and defend the reproductive rights CPCs seek to eradicate. CPCs mislead and deceive women to further an anti-abortion agenda. In the process, they put women's health at risk and undermine their reproductive autonomy. CPCs are increasingly receiving federal and state funding for these activities - with dangerous consequences for women's health and wellbeing. In Texas, a single, inexperienced CPC recently received $5 million in state family planning funding to provide "abortion alternatives." In previous years, this money had been granted to actual reproductive healthcare providers. The Texas Department of State Health Services now estimates that nearly 17,000 women could lose access to preventative family planning and reproductive health care services - including pap smears and breast cancer screening - as a result of this earmark. CPCs also receive money through tax credits and revenue generated by "Choose Life" license plates in several states.

Funding for "Responsible Fatherhood" Initiative Discriminates Against Women and Girls

In 2007, Legal Momentum and NOW spearheaded a movement against funding for the Bush Administration's "Responsible Fatherhood" initiative. Many of the programs funded by the initiative provided training and education for women but not for men, a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination in any education program that receives federal funds.

Legal Momentum and NOW filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) alleging sex discrimination in 34 of the first 100 programs funded by the Bush Administration under its "Responsible Fatherhood" initiative. The 34 programs in question provided job training services to men but not to women.

Learn more about how the "Responsible Fatherhood" Initiative violates Title IX.

Resources & Materials

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